World of Mouth

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

To begin, thankyou Erik Qualman for my catchy title.

So far this week we have looked at archives – and more often than not, what I’ll refer to as old and mostly static archives. I looked at depth into Jon Stokes’ article on the google backlash and read extensively on the articles he linked to in his blog.  Stokes’ blog and Mathew Ogles blog focus on theories relating to archival manipulation and retrieval. Stokes looks at how Googles search power is affecting businesses and websites. While Ogles blog focuses on how we are stuck in what he refers to as real time due to the immense and instantaneous nature of archives online. However many online thinkers, such as Erik Qualman,  believe that we are undertaking a revolution in how we retrieve data from archives and that what is mentioned by Stokes and Ogle may soon be irrelevant – if you have 20 minutes to spare watch his ted lecture here.

Qualman shows that 90% of people trust peer recommendation of products over traditional marketing and believes that this is going to change how we archive our material forever.  With this in mind we can see that social networking sites are in fact a threat to search engines like google. This is because Googles search capabilities are at the core run on a static formula. If over time internet users were able to rate and tag websites we could see a revolution in the way we sort and access archives. People are more likely to use a site that their friends said was useful or entertaining in the same way they would buy a product.  This would then transfer the power that Manjoo talks about in his article from the mega corporation of Google into the hands of the people and then theoretically return fairer and more relevant results than a formula ever would.

Finally I would like to mention that perhaps reading articles from 03, 05 and even to some extent 08 may be outdated in this ever changing media landscape. And yes, I do realise the irony in saying that after reading Ogles article.



Actor Network Theory – Simplified (not as much as i had planned)

March 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

So what exactly is actor network theory? Personally I found that once I understood why ANT was created I gained a better understanding of the theory. My understanding is that ANT was essentially created as a response to technological and social determinism. Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that the technology of a society is what drives it’s culture and values. For example the internet has changed most aspects of modern life but being more specific we can say it changed how we do our banking and pay bills. Social determinism is the theory that society’s needs are what drives technological change – for example during times of colonialism society had the need to communicate quickly over long distances and therefore the radio was created. ANT essentially says forget about determinism, there was neither the chicken nor the egg. With ANT these technologies and social need are both equal in a network or in other words that theory or concepts are equal to material thing.

So with determinism in mind, ANT places all these things into a flat ontology or single plane that gives no indication of a higher or lower influence. This means that the networks are constantly changing and affecting each agent (thing) within the network. This however means that ANT must give agency to all things – both human and nonhuman – in its network. This, to many critics, presents a fatal flaw in the theory; how can a nonhuman object have agency – how can something nonhuman have the capacity to act. However I believe that this has to be taken with a grain of salt and major focus on particular aspects of the constructs of agency. Namely that agency does not imply that ability of choice in acting – that is a purely semiotic agent can act in that it can spark a thought in a human or a technology can act in that it can change how we do a task, even though we are essentially driving the technology – it is the technology still acting.

Although we can delve much deeper into this theory an interesting question to ponder regarding its creation is: Seeing as we created ANT to better understand the relationship between theory and practise or technology and society is that social determinism?

Canned Air

March 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

In David Carr’s article he states thatFor The New York Times, the content is what it manufactures, at a very dear cost, and its best for the paper to control pricing and grow its database of consumers.’ This may indeed be true – the New York Times is probably one of the most well known print papers in the world and its content is of an incredibly high quality and therefore not cheap to produce.  Carr seems to suggest in his article that the only way to continue producing this high standard content from a business point of view is to create a pay system for the online paper.

However as I believe and Alan Rusbridger states in his interview there is a fundamental change in journalism and interestingly that “everyone agrees we are going to be smaller.”

While the owners of the New York Times believe that the only way for their newspaper to continue is to introduce a pay for subscription method then why are we seeing such success from so many free content news sites. Case in question is – if you are not familiar with Mashable it is a social media and web trends blog that started in 2005.

Let me throw some numbers at you. Mashable employs 40 people and currently draws 0.7% of Internet traffic in the states (it is ranked 127th). With this in mind how is it that The New York Times  whose executive and board of directors makes up 43 people who then control thousands of journalists only manages to attract 1.8% of US traffic.

While that extra 1.1% of internet traffic is not cheap it is clear that the New York Times are approaching the web 2.0 revolution with their heads still in the static world of print. A pay wall is just turning back the clocks to the time when you would pay for a physical newspaper and this time is dead and gone. When the New York Times introduce their pay wall a majority of their users will turn to a high quality alternative that is importantly free.




Time = Influence?

March 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

For my first posting I thought I would focus upon John Naughton’s Article on the kindle (found here and how they rather ironically, deleted 1984 from their customers e- readers.

Saying this after I read through the article I found the most thought provoking lines to be an extract from George Orwells 1984 –

It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or        within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away.

It got me thinking. In Orwells dystopian 1984 world, even the simplest and most basic form of publishing, that is your facial expressions being ‘made public’, was policed.  This in turn sparked another train of thought; the fact that as a very general rule the time and effort that goes into publishing  correlates with how long the publishing remains in the public sphere and how highly it is regarded. This of course is not absolute – a terrible book that took a year to publish in the 1800’s is still a terrible book while a photo taken on a mobile phone with no preparation and instantly uploaded to twitter can alter history profoundly. However this train of thought is more regarding the publishing of text. A prime example of this is the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone provided the key for the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics. An interesting question is what if the text upon the Rosetta Stone was written on papyrus? Of course we would have a different understanding of ancient Egypt today. This is all of course open speculation and does not come to an absolute conclusion. However it is interesting to note the correlation between the effort put into publishing and how long it stays in the public sphere as well as the effect it has on society. Maybe to better illustrate my train of thought ask yourself if you can remember  a tweet from a year ago? 6 months? Last week?


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