Just recently the Institute of Technology Assessment Vienna (ITA) relaunched its website. Along with the new Website it entered the so-called Web 2.0 including Twitter & Facebook. Having followed ITA’s way into social media, I realized that creating an institutional Web presence is not as easy as writing an individual blog. Questions popped up that I never thought about when writing my own stuff: Who is speaking in the name of ITA? What philosophy, political stance or “Blattlinie” is followed? How much interaction is wanted? AND – last but not least – who is maintaining all these new media arenas and filling them with content, news and “updates”? Just like classical PR social media maintenance is a lot of work and needs to be done on top of everything else..
Despite all these challenging questions ITA has managed to appear in this “networked news ecology” (Felix Stalder) – co-performed by human and algorithmic practices. If you’re interested in the growing role technology – ranging from digital media, surveillance cameras, nano technology, smart grids to synthetic biology – plays in science and society I recommend following ITA news on its website, as well as ITA updates on Twitter and Facebook. I’m sure you’ll LIKE it!!!
I’m happy to announce that the Institute of Network Cultures will be hosting another Society of the Query event in Amsterdam, November 7-8 2013. I’m even happier that they asked me to present some of my search engine work there
For those who haven’t heard of the Society of the Query events yet, I recommend their collaborative research blog on search. The blog was originally initiated in the course of various search engine events including Society of the Query 1, Amsterdam 2009, and the Deep Search conferences in Vienna, 2008 & 2010. It was – just recently – re-activated by René König, who was also involved in the conference planning. Thanks René, I hope to see you in Amsterdam!
On the 9th of April the book “Vor Google. Eine Mediengeschichte der Suchmaschine im analogen Zeitalter” will be presented and discussed in the Wienbibliothek im Rathaus (in German). The book is edited by Thomas Brandstetter, Thomas Hübel & Anton Tantner and contains a number of essays on “analogue search engines” including bible citation indexes, state calendars of the 18th century and their hierarchical system, newspaper comptoirs, servants as crucial information centers, Vannevar Bush’s Memex and the politics of bibliometrics.
Since I’ll be giving a short review of the book and participate in the round table discussion (along with Jana Herwig and Stefan Zahlmann) I’m currently reading through the book.
The impression I immediately got while flipping through the pages is that thinking about search engines and their predecessors from a historic angle adds great value to common search engine research. Some of the past issues – e.g. how to organize indexes, the politics of search – still haunt present-day search tools, while others have only recently been introduced – e.g. the commercial dimension of search engines and the exploitation of user data. All in all there’s much to learn from juxtaposing contemporary and past search engines!
If you wanna participate in this exciting endevour please join us on the 9th of April, 7pm, Lesesaal der Wienbibliothek im Rathaus, Eingang Lichtenfelsgasse 2, Stiege 6 (Lift), 1. Stock, 1010 Wien. (= sounds complicated, but will hopefully be doable )
Here’s the book outline from the Wienbibliothek Website, where you can find more information:
Ein Alltag ohne digitale Suchmaschinen ist heute nur noch schwer vorstellbar. Dabei lassen sich zahlreiche Einrichtungen, Personen und Techniken ausmachen, die lange vor Google und Co ähnliche Funktionen übernommen haben – Staatshandbücher und Diener etwa, aber auch Bibliothekskataloge, Fragebögen oder Zeitungskomptoire. Welche strukturellen Ähnlichkeiten gibt es zwischen diesen früheren und den heutigen Suchmaschinen? Welche Utopien knüpften sich an die Suchmaschinen des analogen Zeitalters? Welche Formen von Kontrolle ermöglichten sie? Das vorgestellte Buch widmet sich diesen und weiteren Fragen und liefert damit nicht nur neue Erkenntnisse über die Medien der Vergangenheit, sondern vertieft auch die Analysen der gegenwärtigen medialen Lage.
I’ve been invited to moderate the track “technology and regulation” at the Momentum 13 symposium. I’ve never heard of this conference before, but it seems to be an exciting platform for political discourse concerning societal challenges of all sorts. Its panelists include scientists, policy makers, activists and labor unionists. This year’s topic is “progress” in its broadest sense. The abstract on their website reads like this:
The conference-series “Momentum” is dedicated to the integration of academic knowledge and political practice and invites contributions from researchers, labor unionists, political practitioners and activists. Momentum is interdisciplinary, particularly open to submissions from young scholars and decidedly invites not only academic but also policy-oriented papers. The Momentum conference series has been launched in 2008 and is held in German (although English contributions are also welcome).
The call for papers is open until the 19th of April 2013, the deadline for finalized papers is the 7th September. An overview of the ten thematically distinct tracks (democracy, economy, art, social movements, technology, feminism and more) may be found here. The symposium is led by Barbara Blaha, Josef Weidenholzer and their team. The location Hallstatt is scenic, as these pics show.
Would be fun to see you there!
Here’s the link to the upcoming radio broadcast dealing with the student initiative “europe vs facebook”. Since I gave an interview for the program, along with other “experts”, the broadcast will most likely contain one or two of my sentences It will go on air on Sunday, 10.02., at 22:30 pm; radio station Ö1. Or, alternatively, you could also follow the program online. I’m not sure if there’ll be a podcast available right after, but if so I’ll post the link. You’ll find more information on the program here.
We (Katja Mayer and I) have just finalized our course on digital methods for next summer term. We’ll be teaching at the Department of Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna. The seminar will be part of the master program “Master of Arts – Science. Technology. Society”, but, in principle, everyone can join – if I understood it correctly. I’m not really familiar with the new curriculum yet though.. But I’m sure it will be fun since theoretical inquiry will be mixed with hands-on empirical research – fed by our own research and recent studies from our colleagues.
© image credit: Digital Methods Initiative (Amsterdam)
Here’s the syllabus. Join us if you like! Or otherwise, follow our seminar blog (which we plan to write if we find the time to do so )
Digital Methods – How Do We Know?
New information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social media like Google, Facebook and co. crucially change our daily lives. The “computational turn”, however, also affects the social sciences and humanities. Applications and software programs – ranging from simple presentation to complex network visualization tools – increasingly intrude into and shape scientific practices and the ways we conduct, present, and disseminate research. Rooted in the tradition of Science and Technology Studies (STS) this seminar addresses the central question of how digital methods of all kinds influence “how we know”. We will experiment with and critically examine various software tools and visualization techniques to better understand the growing number of digital methods used not only in the natural sciences, but increasingly also in the social sciences and humanities. We will ground these new tools respectively in older research traditions, discuss implications digital methods have in the process of knowledge production, and how to meet new challenges arising in the growing field of “digital social sciences and humanities”.
Drawing on literature from STS and critical new media studies, we aim to discuss the following questions: What are “digital methods” and what kind of knowledge(s) do they create? How do (digital) methods organize our research objects and what realities are enacted by them? How can hyperlink networks and Google analyses be used to analyze controversies like climate change or biofuels? How can social networking services, and Twitter in particular, be used to analyze political discourses and “hacktivist mobilization”? What information hierarchies and biases does commercial software trigger in the research process, and how can we handle this problem? What is “big data” and what are the benefits and dangers of large-scale computational science? And, finally, what are the implications of open access, creative commons, and Wikis in the context of both research and politics?
Jenny Eklöf and I have been collaborating on a project during my HUMlab fellowship (2010-2012). Our study investigated how the biofuel controversy plays out in the Swedish press and Google search results. The results will be published in the journal Media, Culture & Society (mid of next year). The exact phrasing of the editor goes like this:
“It will be several issues, and certainly several months, before your piece is prepared for publication and the proofs sent on to you. Please do not contact us for a specified issue number and date until 5 months or so after this note of acceptance.”
Well, if you don’t want to wait that long please let us know and we’ll send you a copy!
That’s the abstract:
What are the conditions for the public understanding of biofuels and how do the media shape these conditions under the influence of a new production of knowledge? This article investigates how the biofuel controversy plays out in the Swedish press and Google search engine results and analyses winners and losers in the tight attention economy of contemporary media. It describes different visibility strategies biofuel stakeholders employ in both media arenas, and identifies a form of technoscientific promotion that hybrid actors use to succeed in the day-to- day struggle for media attention. To conclude, it raises broader societal questions of the contemporary blurring of knowledge boundaries and the emergence of new information hierarchies and their biases. By understanding how contemporary media shape controversies, we can address the democratic potential of both mass media and science.
celebrates his first week on earth!!!
After two (!) years my last PhD-related article just went online! It’s been published by the popular online journal First Monday, which is – normally – known for a quick review process. But well, good things take time, as the saying goes. Since my PhD “Mediated Knowledge” (download here) deals with the computer-mediated communication of online health information you may ask whether the article is not outdated by now. That’s what I was asking myself, at any rate..
But the answer is no. Even though the empirical data may seem quite “old”, and Web 2.0 health communication has become more widespread in the meanwhile, the base line of my arguments – the “politics of online health information” challenging the democratic ideal of the web – is still valid and more relevant than ever (not least because Google managed to further enlarge its market share and hence influence over online knowledge since then). Got interested? Then check out my article “Health information politics: Reconsidering the democratic ideal of the Web as a source of medical knowledge” on First Monday and decide for yourself!
Thanks go to my HUMlab colleagues for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the paper, Mike Frangos first and foremost!!!