History Of Wikipedia

The term “Wiki” was first coined by American computer programer Ward Cunningham (1949-present). It refers to websites which enable users to generate content by editing information about an event, object or phenomenon as it occurs in reality.

In 2000, Internet project developers Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger established Nupedia, which was the first example of a website which utilized the concept of developing a free encyclopedia for users to generate information for distribution on a digital network.

Initially Newpedia comprised of articles which were based predominantly on the opinions of expert academics. A major flaw in Nupedia’s implementation of an open encyclopedia to consumers was a lack of resources,  strict peer review processes and leadership tensions between Wales and Sanger in the direction of Nupedia.

Nupedia was scrapped in 2003, and Wikapedia was soon formed as a new social platform. Adopting the notion of “Wiki” proposed by Cunningham. Thus enabling wider distribution of information to consumers who could participate in the process of editing of articles on the site.

*The History Of Wikipedia In Two Minutes – Video*

The New Media Literacies

There is a strong role for adults to play in insuring that young people develop a critical vocabulary for thinking about the place of media in their lives and engage in meaningful reflection about the ethical choices they make as media producers and participants in online communities.

The new media literacies is essentially a set of cultural and social skills required by the digital generation in order to understand and navigate the new media landscape.

The emphasis is on Collaboration and Networking; in short a shift of focus from the individual to a focus on community involvement.

 Three Core Concerns: 

The Participation Gap — the unequal access of youths to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge which will prepare them for full participation in the world of tomorrow.

The Transparency Problem — The challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways that media shapes our perceptions of the world.

The Ethics Challenge — The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization which might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants.

Key Skills of New Media Literacies

Collective Intelligence — the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal.

Judgment — the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information source.

Networking — the ability to search for, synthesize and disseminate information.

Negotiation — the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative sets of norms.

The internet has placed new emphasis on the need for schools and afterschool programs to foster a set of cultural competencies and social skills which young people need as they confront the new media landscape that has appeared.

*The New Media Literacies – Video*

Participatory Culture 

The new literacies are almost all social skills which have to do with collaboration and networking. From these come Participatory culture, where individual expression becomes community involvement. Everyone has a role in media literacy. We are all consumers and we are all producers in this digital age.

We are no longer mere ‘audience’ members when it comes to cultural production. We are participants.

 Participatory Culture is:

  • Where there is relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement.
  • Where there is strong support for creating and sharing what you create with other.
  • Members feel some degree of social connection with each other.

These are the ‘special ingredients’ of how Wikipedia functions as a self-regulating process.

Now onto the benefits of Participatory Culture:

  • Opportunities for peer-to-peer learning.
  • A changed attitude towards intellectual property.
  • The diversification of cultural expression the development of skills valued in the modern workplace.
  • More empowered conception of citizenship.

Participatory Culture in Action!

Now a Trip back down Memory Lane With Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr in his article is Google Making Us Stupid? talks about the weight of technology and what it is doing to us. In Carr’s article he mentions that ‘the deep reading reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle and that we simply zip along the surface with information processing’ Now what does this mean in terms of Wikipedia, a site where absolutely anybody can edit the content.

 We live in a fast pased lifestyle, everyone is always wanting to try the new faster, smarter better thing in life. We are constantly producing, consuming and wanting more. For this Wikipedia serves a great purpose, you get an extradionary amount of information in just one site, instead of wasting time looking around for what you need.

Clay Shirky states that “Every past technology I know of that has increased the number of producers and consumers of written material, from the alphabet and papyrus to the telegraph and the paperback, has been good for humanity” Is this perhaps true of Wikipedia then?

The amount of reading has increased exponentially. We are reading more than ever in this Digital Information Age!

Personally, as a child of this digital generation, I used Wikipedia for just about anything, especially in school. There was nothing better than just cutting and pasting information that I automatically believed was accurate. As I grew older and became more aware that changed of course!

However this can be problematic if children are not aware of the finer details of Wikipedia. Anyone can edit articles, that means people who have actually studied the field and have a wealth of experience (Expert Paradigms) or those keyboard warriors (Idiots) who know absolutely nothing accurate about the subject matter yet believe they do. Vandalism is another topic continually occuring with Wikipedia, while  blatant vandalism is easily spotted and rapidly corrected such as Jesus secretly being Batman, it is Wikipedia’s more subtle vandalism that people will fall to, such as the date of something in the eighteen century that could easily be changed.

The Life of a University Student!

Collective Intelligence

Collective Intelligence  exploits the potential of network culture to allow many different minds operating in many different contexts to work together to solve problems that are more challenging than any of them could master as individuals.

In this world  nobody knows everything, everyone knows something, and what any member knows is available to the group as a whole at a moment’s notice. What holds a knowledge community together is not the possession of knowledge but the social process of acquiring knowledge.

The possession of knowledge is relatively static, however the social process of acquiring knowledge is both dynamic and participatory.

The Wikipedians bond by working together to fill gaps in their collective knowledge thus continually testing and reaffirming the group’s social ties.

Collective intelligence places new emphasis upon diversity: the more diverse the participants, the richer the final outcome.

Putting the Puzzle Together!

 Criticisms of Wikipedia

  • Increased reliance on Wikipedia.
  • These teachers worry that youth aren’t developing an appropriate level of skepticism about the kinds of information found on this particular site.
  • There are legitimate concerns about the credibility of online information and the breakdown of traditional notions of expertise which should be debated

 How to Combat These Criticisms

Much as educators responded to the debates in the 1990s about “political correctness” and multiculturalism by arguing that we should “teach the debate,” today’s educators should help young people to understand competing arguments about the value of Wikipedia. In this context, it is not enough to construct policies restricting the use of Wikipedia as a source if we don’t help foster the skills young people need in order to critically engage with a site which has become so central to their online lives.

“I can’t believe in any of this information. Nothing is believable.”

This cynical perspective is the antithesis of what the educational experience strives to foster. It is informed skepticism and a sense of the power of communication as a form of action to transform and shape society that educators hope to impart to students.

The emphasis is on Informed Scepticism rather than being dismissive.

*Do you Trust the Information On Wikipedia – Video*

Wikipedia: Not Just an Encyclopidia

Describing it as an encyclopedia emphasizes Wikipedia as a product rather than focusing attention on the ongoing process by which its community pools information, debates what knowledge matters, and vets competing truth claims. Encyclopedias we have known in the past were depositories of an always already completed process of writing and research. Wikipedia is something different.

When you first come to Wikipedia, it really seems like a collection of articles. It seems like a bunch of pages about different topics. Now when you talk to people who are very involved in Wikpedia, it becomes a collection of people who are carrying out a project….Wikipedia was a place where people were coming together to write about the world and figure out what’s true about the world and what kinds of facts are important to know about the world. These are the kinds of things I think students should be doing.” – Andrea Forte

 To the ordinary user, the turmoil and uncertainty that may lurk beneath the surface of a Wikipedia article are invisible. He or she arrives at a Wikipedia article via Google, perhaps, and sees that it is part of what claims to be an “encyclopedia”. This is a word that carries a powerful connotation of reliability. The typical user doesn’t know how conventional encyclopedias achieve reliability, only that they do.”Robert McHenry

Wikipedia is simply one of a broad range of online activities that involve the collaborative and coordinated production and circulation of knowledge. Online games such as World of Warcraft and Diablo encourage people with very different skills to work together to meet challenges that are designed for this kind of coordinated activity; the community may develop its own mods and toolkits that help them to monitor and organize such large-scale activities. Fanfiction sites operate very similar.Through the varying online communities helps young people to think about their own roles as researchers and writers in new ways.

How Wikipedia Empowers

  • Warning Flags – The things at the top of a page eg. No references, In need of attention, expert required.
  • Talk Pages – A place where you can discuss and weigh in about the contents of a page.
  • Neutral Point of View – Means representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources. It is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia and is  especially important when Wikipedia’s global status is taken into account.
  • Hyperlinks – Wikipedia taps the power of networked culture by providing hyperlinks where-ever possible; this makes it very easy for readers to return to the original source and weigh its evidence for themselves Eg. references at the bottom of the pages.

    Wikapedia: To Cite or Not to Cite

    The academic skills and learning services of the Australian National University (ANU) recommend Wikipedia as a good starting point when investigating research questions. However it is advised that Wikipedia should not be cited in academic studies.

    The ANU would only allow the citation of a Wikipedia source if a student is effectively able to demonstrate that the article has originated from an authoritative source, with an expert knowledge of a phenomenon.

    As mentioned previously in the history of Wikipedia, the peer review process of articles on Nupedia was scraped and Wikipedia enabled any user to generate content which may be submitted to the online free encyclopedia.

    The ANU values this contribution of Wikipedia as an online source suggesting that Wikipedia offers:

    • Up to date entries on the most recent phenomenon or abstract issues
    • A history of discussion of articles, which enables users to see how contributors have arrived at certain viewpoints.

    While the ANU does support Wikipedia as an online source, as an academic source articles need to be treated with caution as:

    • Entries are not specifically written by experts within the field
    • Articles can have biased opinions based on a phenomenon. (eg My opinion of an issue that arises in society, may be different to that of anyone else’s opinion.)
    • Some articles lack sufficient quality in information, Also information can be subject to error.

    Overall as an open source of information Wikipedia is very convenient for gathering up knowledge on a particular subject or phenomenon. However as an academic source, Wikapedia may not be the best tool to cite information, and the better alternative is to adopt empirical research studies.

Is Wikipedia becoming a respectable academic source?

How many humanities and social science researchers are discussing, using and citing Wikipedia?

Lisa Spiro conducted a search into how many Wikipedia references were cited from two leading humanities and social sciences data journal collections. It became clear that there had been an increase in citations by humanities and social science researchers from Wikipedia from 2002 to 2008, which indicates the researchers acknowledge and engage with it. As we are told at university not to use Wikipedia to reference anything, it was surprising to read that Wikipedia was gaining respectability due to the well-known scholars that were citing it. However just because these well-known scholars are citing Wikipedia, surely it doesn’t mean it is a reliable source? Christine Borgman notes “Scholarly documents achieve trustworthiness through a social process to assure that the document satisfies the quality norms of the field”.

Researchers and scholars cite Wikipedia on a diverse range of topics as well as searching for images. Contemporary culture and Information technology were popular topics that many used Wikipedia to obtain information. User’s claim that mechanisms and information technology where among the most reliable content domains on Wikipedia given the high interest of such topics.

After analysing the findings of her research, Spiro came to her own conclusion that there were four main criticisms of Wikipedia. They included:

1: Research projects shouldn’t rely upon encyclopaedias.

2: Since Wikipedia is constantly undergoing revision, it is too unstable to cite.

3: You can’t trust Wikipedia because anyone, including folks with no expertise, strong biases or malicious intent, can contribute to it anonymously.

4: Wikipedia entries lack authority because there is no peer review.

Spiro also declares that Wikipedia’s appropriateness as an academic source depends on what is being cited and for what purpose. User’s should use critical judgement in analysing its reliability and appropriateness. Spiro doesn’t think there should be any shame is citing Wikipedia.

Among some ideas to help make Wikipedia a more reliable source, users think that contributors should be required to use their real name for verification. This would, to some extent, eliminate a number of false statements or accusations. Users also found that non-controversial topics were quite good on Wikipedia.

After reading other articles about whether or not Wikipedia should be cited, I found that there were many academics and scholars that believed that no encyclopaedias should be cited. They should just give you goof background information related to your studies.

Social Ties: Networking Together

‘Social Ties: Networking Together’ by Yochai Benkler was an examination of the effects of the internet on social relations. Benkler begins by describing the two different opposing views on how the internet would affect a person’s social relations. On one side of the argument people were really concerned that this new freedom would fray social ties and fragment social relations, in short a bit of a breakdown of the community, after all communication was the basis for all social relations. You couldn’t have meaningful relationships except by communicating with others, at a face to face level. This dystopian view was particularly strong in the 1990’s when the internet was just starting out.

“Communication is constitutive of social relations”

The other view believed that these new ‘virtual communities’ of the internet would come to represent a new human communal existence, providing more opportunities and ways of sharing human interaction. This emphasis was on ensuring a utopian view, leading to greater equality for all through this proprietary information notion. The more information some one has, the greater the power they hold.

Benkler examined a few studies and papers in order to better understand the effects of the internet on social relations. In Mark Granovetter’s study it was suggested that the kind of human contact that was built around online interactions was thinner and less meaningful. Mark referred to these online relations as being ‘weak ties’ that have been created based on a similar interest or practice. Howard Rheingold’s book ‘The Virtual Community’ also showed similar findings, Rheingold’s observations on online behaviour and computer mediated communication proposed that online relationships are more limited in nature than relationship ties to family and friends and if given the freedom to design our own communications environment flexibly, we would create a system that allows us to strengthen the ties that are the most important to us.

With the internet it doesn’t necessarily make us more social beings, it simply allows us more degrees of freedom. As human beings we have a tendency to do more of what is easier to do than what requires great effort.  Peer production helped make this possible, it offered a new platform for human connection. While it might seem easy and simple, things such as free downloadable software and Wikipedia, actually take a lot of people working together, sharing their ideas with each other, all around the world. It is through these purposes and interests that bring these unconnected individuals together, with whom they interact with, work with and eventually allow a social relationship to thicken over time. The internet allows us to extend networks across space, compress time and alter our experience of proximity. Thus communities are always revolving and changing.


Wikipedia is a great source for first bases of knowledge, however with Wikipedia it invites youth to imagine what it might mean to consider themselves as experts on some small corner of the universe. As they collect and communicate what they know, they are forced to think of themselves writing to a public. This is no longer about finding the right answer to get a grade on an assignment but producing credible information that others can count upon when they deploy it in some other real world context.

Wikipedia assumes an active reader who asks questions about the factual claims presented, the evidence supporting the claims and the sources that were consulted.

There are 6 questions that need to be asked when thinking about the media literacy movement and Wikipedia.

1. Who made and who sponsored  this message, and for what purpose?

2. Who is the target audience, and how is the message specifically tailored to them?

3. What are the different techniques used to inform, persuade, entertain, and attract attention?

4. What messages are communicated or implied?

5. How current, accurate, and credible is the information in this message?

6. What is left out of this message that might be important to know?

If you keep all this in the back of your mind then Wikipedia is the site for you!

Q.  Has anyone in the audience viewed the history of the discussion section in Wikipedia  with regards to how contributors came to their conclusions when writing the article? If so do you believe that their contribution’s are reliable source of information? If not, would you investigate this feature of Wikipedia for research purposes?

Q. Do you personally believe that online relationships can be possible replacements for real world human connections or even possibly more beneficial?


The thesis written by Cote and Pybus concerns several concepts regarding Facebook, including immaterial labour, immaterial labour 2.0 and biopower. In order to understand the relation between these concepts vis-a-vis Facebook, we must first understand what each concept involves. These are explained as follows.


Everyone reading this blog post knows what Facebook is, regardless of whether or not they use it. Facebook will hit One Billion users any day now (Owen Thomas), with 526 million of those being daily active users (Nicholas Carlson). 30% of active users are between the ages of 18 – 25 (Cote & Pybus, pg 15). Facebook is first and foremost a social sphere, a place to digitally ‘hang out’ with friends. Well, that is its what it ‘supposed’ to be used for. People can participate in Facebook by posting their own statuses and photos; and by ‘liking’ and commenting on other people’s statuses and photos. People can also ‘like’ the pages of celebrities, commodities and popular culture, such as movies, musicians and TV shows, with these pages resulting in millions of likes.

Top ten most liked pages

Facebook for every phone 131 million

Facebook 71.8 million

Texas hold em poker 64.8 million

Youtube 62.4 million

Eminem 60.8 million

Rhianna 60.1 million

The Simpsons 54.5 million

Shakira 54.2 million

Lady Gaga 53.2 million

Michael Jackson 51.7 million

All of them went up at least 100,000 likes since I checked them last week. Although Facebook is now in it’s 6th year of being open to the public, it is still growing exponentially. Not just in the number of subscribers; but the amount of subscribers who maintain a presence on Facebook through posting, liking and commenting.

The words of entrepreneur and Facebook president Sean Parker from 2010 movie The Social Network were adjusted by Owen Thomas to refer to the current amount of Facebook users,

“One billion users isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Two billion users.”

Immaterial Labour

The easiest way to understand what immaterial labour is, is to compare it to our understanding of labour. Workers who are ‘labourers’ usually are in a ‘hands on’ type of job, such as carpentry, painting, or automotive repairs. These are forms of labour which result in a firm product. Immaterial labour is work which does not produce a product, instead it “Creates immaterial products, such as knowledge, information, communication, a relationship, or an emotional response.” (Hardt & Negri 2004, pg 108).

Immaterial Labour 2.0

As the Web evolved into Web 2.0, Cote and Pybus posit that immaterial labour, as introduced by Lazzarato in 1996, must evolve into immaterial labour 2.0. Immaterial Labour 2.0 uses the explanation of what immaterial labour is as written by Lazzarato,

“The activity that produces the “cultural content” of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that are not normally recognized as “work”—in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion.”

Immaterial Labour 2.0 places this into the realm of Facebook. People posting photos, links, and statuses is all a form of immaterial labour 2.0. All this information becomes free knowledge, owned by Facebook to be used by anyone in any way they decide. In this sense, Facebook is training people to become used to divulging information for free, on a constant basis.

Learning to Immaterial Labour and Develop Affective Capacity

When we use Facebook, updating status’, post images, links etc we do so to maintain particular kinds of social and increasingly political and economic relationships. Why do we update so much? Judith Butler (cited in Cote & Pybus 2011 pg 11) believes it is, “To count as a subject and become recognisable”. Facebook is a well known social media network with nearly one billion users worldwide – so we as users see the space as a way to increase our social activity (inviting other users to participate and connect and become part of the public sphere. Facebook has the desire to create a network of friends, establish comparative intelligibility and information circulation.
Jenny Sunden (cited in Cote & Pybus 2011, pg 12)  says that we continue using these sites because the gap between reality and virtual world continues to get smaller and smaller. We used to see computers as a fixed window we looked in to, but now it has shifted, and is part of our daily lives. For example, my phone is now part of my life and comes with me everywhere I go. Facebook is also part of everyday life.  If you don’t have an account you are virtually non existent to a virtual world with nearly a billion users. Even if you do have an account but do not update your page on a regular basis, you are also seen as non existent user. Bianca’s father has facebook but doesn’t use it often, therefore she doesn’t consider him having one. We use the network site to construct what we want to project to other users. You can create a reality of yourself within this virtual world and find common ground with others.

Audience Commodity

In 2005, NewsCorp purchased MySpace for more than half a billion dollars. They did this because there had been a shift in the way people accessed media, and traditional ways of finding out information, such as newspapers, weren’t quite cutting it anymore. Television viewing is also down, with social media websites on the rise.

The word ‘audience’ isn’t really one that can be described to the participants of social networks. While there is a certain viewer aspect to it, it is more active, with people able to comment on things as they happen, instead of waiting to discuss them around the water cooler at work the next day. The viewer is also the creator. You can comment on things as they happen, which is participation, this can refer to television shows, or political events. “We have shifted from the static world of the couch potato to the dynamic one of the blogger or social media, busily updating.” (Cote and Pybus) These days, instead of waiting for the 6pm news, we can find out things as they happen. Whether its world events or whether your friend is having a party on Saturday, and who is attending.

Digital Archive of the Self.

In order for Facebook to increase its value, it has to encourage users to stick with them and use it more, no matter what changes they make to it. Due to the nature of social media, websites can die as quickly as they become popular and this is not what Facebook wants to happen. They want to continue being the main social media website that people visit, not go the way of Friendster and MySpace.

Facebook is a digital archive. This is different from regular archives because it’s not just read only. Users can change material, offer opinions, and all sorts of other things. Your Facebook profile becomes a digital archive of yourself. It contains your personal information like your date of birth, it has photos of you, it remembers where you’ve been. It is “always in the middle of being updated”. (Cote and Pybus)

Facebook Terms of Services

Whether you realise or not, Facebook owns everything you post on it. Their terms of service, something that few people actually read, details the below:

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publically perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works, and distribute any User Content [remotely related to you].

This is part of the capitalistic nature of Facebook, because they are a money making enterprise and they can use your information to sell ads, and such.

Coté, M, & Pybus, J, 2011, Immaterial Labour 2.0. or, Learning to Like Social Networks, Oliver Leistert
& Theo Röhle (eds.)

Hardt, M, & Negri, A, 2000, Empire, Harvard university press, London, England

Hardt, M, & Negri, A, 2000, Empire, Harvard university press, London, england


Facebook is a website devoted to social networking. It currently has over 500 million daily users and 900 monthly users worldwide and it is the second most popular website only behind Google.


Facebook was established by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 and gained popularity almost immediately. By the end of its first year it had over 64 million users.

Daily Life Usage

200 million people access Facebook via a mobile device each day

  • More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared each day
  • Users that access Facebook on mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook compared to non-mobile users
  • Facebook generates a staggering 770 billion page views per month
  • 200 million people access Facebook via a mobile device each day
  • Average user sends 8 friend requests per month

Facebook Stats

Facebook users log an average of 60 minutes per day

When you log on what is the first thing you see? The NEWSFEED!!

The Newsfeed is one of the most significant parts in Facebook. This is where you see your friend’s links to news, their check-ins to places and their likes (contents in general). The Newsfeed is the place where the conversations start rolling if the subject is of interest.
“A ‘performative’ virtual playground that drives the production of subjectivities on-line, while simultaneously acting as site of capture for the immaterial labour required for users to remain recognizable” (Cote & Pybus, 2011, p.6) .

Facebook practising a form of Biopower

Biopower “uses this population like a machine for production, for the production of wealth, goods and other individuals” (Foucault, cited in Cote & Pybus 2011, p. 10).

Facebook is not as private as you think. They are actually using your information to advertise contents according to your interests. Your likes and dislikes and personal information are essential as it allows Facebook to choose what you see (in terms of advertisements) selling products back to us.


Immaterial? Labour? Immaterial labour?

Social networking is all about connecting with friends and family and meeting new people, right?

Yes, that is gist of it. However, immaterial labour is the major player in social networks such as Facebook as companies are earning big bucks while users are providing free labour to promote products, places, fashion and news simply by sharing with friends. This will make other people on the network want the things you like and are able to find out more about the place/product then users will participate and feel involved and be a part of a community by keeping the social flow going. This gets users to be more productive which is shown by of all the things that get generated.

From the Audience Commodity to Immaterial Labour

Social Media has become central to the process of media. An example of this was back in 2004 when Richard Murdoch’s News Corp spent more than a half a million on MySpace. This turned out to be a horrible investment.This purchase showed the growing relationship between Audiences and Popular Culture and those social media platforms like MySpace and now Facebook are not just a form of communication but they are in fact an important part of the media in general. News, current events and people’s everyday lives are spread much quicker through social media.

Through time we as users have changed. We no longer gain all our knowledge and news from the television set, just listening to one side of the story, they story they want us to hear. We have now moved to on to dictate what the media tells us. As we join social media we become a central part of social networks. We update, we tweet, we check in. We share our own opinion and not the opinion of the news.

The Audience Commodity is focused on a response to correct the term of consumption. It is an update on previous theories of how audiences act. Immaterial labour is a new way to describe the ‘audience’. It better helps us understand the line between culture, subjectivity and capital. When dealing with a social network like Facebook, the word audience is irrelevant as there are so many different aspects to consider.


Convergence is a major feature of social networking sites like Facebook. Convergence aids immaterial labour in that the user both produces and consumes the product, and this helps the creation of the cultural content of a community. Unlike past times, major media companies do not produce products for the public to consume, as can be seen in traditional TV production. With Facebook, the user both consumes the product and influences or even creates the product. The role of the user in this situation is important, because the user participates in the cultural content of the product. This is what connects convergence to immaterial labour.

The Digital Archive of the Self, of Feeling, and of Profit

In Facebook there are two parties, Facebook itself and its users. Facebook gains more power the more the users update. Its market value increases as users continually post, upload, share and update their immaterial and affective labour.


When Facebook’s timeline was introduced, it gave new meaning to this theory of ‘the digital archive of the self’. These digital archives are user-generated. We, as users, upload and update everything about our lives on our Facebook profiles. Through Timeline, we have an easily accessible digital archive of our online lives. Our digital archive is always being updated as we upload new information and new media. Our digital archive is always in a process. Even if we stop updating ourselves, on our friends may do it for us by tagging. It also remains a process by still being there and remaining as our online history.

Facebook Timeline

Are you FOR or AGAINST the Facebook Timeline? Why?

This “constant updating is a direct consequence of the new paradigm of permanent 25 transfer” and fits with how Foucault tried to characterize the evolution of the archive. That is, “not a monument for future memory but a document for possible use”.  (Cote & Pybus, 2011, p.25)

Throughout Nicholas Carr’s piece of is ‘Google making us Stupid’. Carr is describing the overabundance of information that is readily available over the internet. Arguing that due to a sheer volume of information not only have we altered our methods of taking in information, but this volume of knowledge has led to a drop in intelligence and intellectual pieces.

Being a frequent Google-user myself, I have concerns with Carr’s argument. His reasoning behind his disagreement is that Google is primary representative of how the Internet is rewiring our brain and changing the way we think. Before Google, Carr states how we would ‘deep read’ which would progress into us making our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, and foster our own ideas.

Carr argues the youth of today favour more unrefined and trashy pieces opposed to literary work such as Tolstoy’s War & Peace. Yes this may be true that the level of writing and prose has dropped since search engines have been implemented. But as Clay Shirky (2009) states “Whenever the abundance of written material spikes, the average quality of written material falls, as a side-effect of volume.” Taking Shirky’s statement into account, and coupling that with the ease of which anyone can at a few clicks of a mouse upload, and publish pieces that are available to the whole world. Which as Shirky described can easily account for the drop in quality. But this isn’t really an issue that should be taken into account. As Carr’s idea is a rather trivial argument due to the fact that if one wants to avoid such works then merely avoid clicking the link or actively refuse to read such pieces.

Next Carr states that the ability to concentrate, absorb and regurgitate information has diminished as a by-product of cyber-skimming.

As part of a five-year research program, scholars studied computer logs documenting the behaviour of visitors to two popular research sites. One was operated by the British Library and one that provided access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. It was found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” bouncing from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site.

Who here believes that skimming is a negative trait?


Carr debates upon the negative impact this is having on our youth. Although this may be true, we can view this form of cyber skimming as just a new and a more efficient way of studying. This new form of studying/reading is definitely relevant towards technological progression. As when vast steps forward in technology take place it is only natural that new forms of behaviour relating to studying surface. As Shirky (2009) states “Carr is correct that there is cultural sacrifice in the transformation of the media landscape, but this is hardly the first time that has happened.” To which Shirky goes onto discuss similar effects associated with Gutenberg’s printing press. The issue of is Google making us stupid isn’t the real question here. As the notion of technological advances creating a drop in intelligence cannot be related back to a system that in its own right has no ability to directly affect human action or persuade our thinking. As it isn’t the fault of search engines that people prefer less then academic information. It is more so the fact that people are utilising technology to pander to their wants and needs. As it would be fairly obvious that most of us would prefer to read an entertainment magazine then delve into a 1200 page novel. It’s not this overabundance of information that is making people stupid. But more it is a progression and realisation that society prefers to indulge in escapism as the stress of day to day life has never been as high as it is now.

Google is the perfect search engine; doesn’t it give you exactly what you want? Its information is a kind of product, and the more pieces of information we can “access” and the faster we can extract the substance, the more productive we become as thinkers.

However just as there’s a tendency to praise technological progress, there’s a countertendency to expect the worst of every new tool or machine. Throughout Carr’s article, he reaches out to various historical examples in which technology changed human behavior. These examples range from the clock helping us decide “when to eat, to work, to sleep, and then when to get up.” the stopwatch increasing factory productivity and even the printing press. These examples only weaken Carr’s argument as they each assisted human beings perform more tasks, further demonstrating the flexibility of the human mind.

The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is incorporating most of our other intellectual technologies. It’s becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.

Carr himself called the Web a “godsend”. It saved him a considerable amount of time whilst conducting his own research and writing. This is exactly the point: Google makes information much more accessible to us, as we determine what information we consume and what information to ignore.

Is Google Making Us Smarter?

To continue along this video stipulates how Google makes us smarter. Comparing brain scans with people who have never or rarely used the internet, compared to people who are well adverse with the internet and search engines. The findings indicate that people who were proficient with the internet and in particular using Google displayed far greater levels of learning in the parts of the brain that take care of information reattainment. The participants who were not adverse with the internet or search engines were told to spend an hour each day for a week practising the craft of probing on search engines. They discovered that the area of the brain responsible for learning had increased significantly after the 7 days of practising on the search engines.

Although Carr makes some good points specifically about how the level of writing has dropped since the widespread commercial use of the internet has taken place, and also the use of cyber-skimming to learn. They ultimately fall on deaf ears. Firstly his criticism of the degradation of writing is valid but as mentioned before is trivial. As we have the option to ignore such pieces. Secondly his remarks about our cyber-skimming seemed to indicate that it will, and has affected our ability to take in information. To which I would counter is incorrect as it allows for us to take in far greater amounts of various pieces. This means our personal library of information contains opinions and views from far more sources, this allows for a greater and more articulated assessment on various topics.

Do you believe that with the explosion of search engines that our ability to analyse, critique, argue and write pieces has been compromised? Or has this ability increased due to the substantial amount of numerous views and opinions that we can use to derive our answers from?

Read the rest of this entry »

Web 2.0 refers to the change in relationship on the internet between the producer and consumer, it opens opportunities for an individual to become a prosumer. The user experience is no longer decided by the web site designer, visitors can now make public contributions and have shared ownership over a site. This causes a shift in power structures and a shift in models based on equal partnership.
This in theory opens possibilities regarding Habermas’ ideal democratic model of the ‘Public Sphere’. The ‘Public Sphere’ indicates a domain of social life where public opinion is expressed through rational public discourse and debate: a forum specifically for debate NOT collective political action.
Benkler identifies 5 criteria to judge the effectiveness of a Public Sphere on Web 2.0, it:
-Must be open to everyone
-Must show itself capable of filtering information
-Must include systems for accrediting information sources
-Must be capable at synthesising public opinion
-Must be independent from the government

Ben Robert identifies some problems with Benkler and his ideological view of Web 2.0 as a ‘new network information economy’. Although there is the potential through availability to multiple sources of information not provided by traditional media, the non-market modes of participation/production and the increased connectivity of individuals to each other, Robert contends that this network is not used in such a manner.  Firstly; the network is not open to everyone nor does everyone who has access contribute in an equal manner. There still tends to be a domination by the same corporate media sites who do not provide the independence necessary for a true ‘public sphere’. With the top 5 news websites accessed in August 2012 being purveyors of more traditional media and from media corporations (http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/news-websites ).

Web Participation

The concept of democracy revolves around assumptions about the nature of political communication, these including the active and collaborative nature of feedback from those affected. Web 2.0 has the ability to provide that function on previously unimaginable levels. The recent uses of Web 2.0, specifically mass social media to cause fundamental political change demonstrates the increased capabilities of people through the web. Perhaps the greatest example of Web 2.0’s use in democratic ideals is the recent Arab Spring phenomena where a chain reaction of revolutions were ignited and sustained through social media.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnPR90dJ3Gk : Documentary on how social media was implemented in the spread of revolutionary ideas in the Middle East.

This kind of organisation and spread of ideas also have been replicated in a Western context, with the Occupy movement expanding from a protest in one city, to separate movements in over 500 (http://occupytogether.org/ )
Although not directly responsible for such political movements, mass and instant communicative media provides an effective tool in the organisation and propagation of political ideas. And raises the question, would a movement on a scale such as the Arab Spring or Occupy have been able to happen without the connectional and organisational apparatus of Web 2.0?

There is also the use of non-market participation on Web 2.0 linking back to the idea of the ‘prosumer’. There are users who contribute to sites such as Wikipedia or creating other user generated content who are collectively contributing to work that have a real economic value. These users are mostly exchanging their labour for no money or any reward, an altruistic act. This would fit in with Benkler’s idea of the ‘network information economy’ however a survey on those who used the internet frequently found that 52% are inactive users of user generated content sites, 33% are passive spectators and only 13% are actual creators: the average income of passive spectators is significantly higher than those of content creators.
There is also a significant difference between the users of the ‘commercially driven’ online communities (i.e. Facebook and Youtube) and those not-for-profit community based exchange sites (wikis). Most people who visit user generated content sites are taken there via the ‘commercially driven’ social media sites or through similar marketing mechanisms. An example of this  was the ‘overnight success’ of a Dutch Teenager who through promotion of her Youtube video on the Hyves friends network (Dutch social networking site: http://hyves.nl/ ) and the eventual contribution from Justin Timberlake’s professional marketers successfully started her pop career. She has gone from relative anonymity to a Dutch celebrity with over 168 million video views simply through viral promotion (http://www.youtube.com/user/esmeedenters ). This also demonstrates the connectivity of Web 2.0.

Our group is week 6 and consists of Sarah Gittins (3887408) , Sharon Narayan (3825158) and Tristan Slywa (3852094) user details updated soon) from the 4pm tute. 

Week 6 looks at Google and how it has integrated itself into how we access data and information online. We will examine the positive and negative social implications of this and explore the ideas further.  🙂