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Abstracts

The following 13 abstracts were accepted for the conference, based on a process of double blind peer review. The abstracts are arranged alphabetically by author.

See also the abstract of the keynote address by Kirsten A. Foot and Steven Schneider.

Brügger, Niels Website History - an analytical grid
Carlson, Gordon The Hypertext Inquisition: Virtual Ethnography as a Method for Web History
Engholm, Ida Webmuseum.dk
Halavais, Alexander The evolution of extremist recruiting on the web: a rhetoric of links
Heuvel, Charles van den Web archiving in research and historical global collaboratories
Hillis, Ken Historicizing Webcam Culture: The Telefetish as Virtual Object
Hofheinz, Albrecht A History of Allah.com
Hunsinger, Jeremy & Jesiek, Brent Collecting and Preserving Webbed Memories From the Virginia Tech Tragedy
Lindblom, Tomi Analyzing and comparing the history of the new media strategies of the media companies
Meyer, Eric T. The World Wide Web of Humanities: Archives for Researching the Web
Paoli, Stefano de An archaeology of the internet: some tips for using the Internet archives
Sapnar, Megan Web Industries, Economies, Aesthetics: Mapping the Look of the Web in the Dot-com Era
Sparviero, Sergio Riccardo The Evolutionary History of Web Design

Virtual Menageries: A Preliminary History

Jody D. Berland, Associate Professor, Division of Humanities, York University, Toronto

According to some researchers, pictures of cats and other animals comprise the largest proportion of internet content after pornography. Between personal blogs, YouTube, personal emails and other URLS, the population of animals on the internet approaches and in some instances possibly exceeds the population of living animals in the “real” terrain served by the internet. As yet, despite the frequency of biological and organic metaphors in the literature on technology, no history or analysis has been made of this virtual menagerie. This paper asks how such a history might be written. It begins the complex process of constructing an historical archive of human-animal relations on the internet. In so doing, it draws on and looks for points of intersection between internet history, animal studies, actor network theory and visual media studies. It proposes that the desire to constitute and circulate virtual menageries has been a significant agent in the development of the internet and explores the consequences of this finding for an ANT informed history of the internet. This work extends and departs from my article “Cat and Mouse: Iconographies of Nature and Desire,” Cultural Studies Vol. 22, 2-3, Spring 2008, which addresses the circulation of cats on the internet in the context of visual culture, and intervenes in philosophical debate about the meaning and status of cats in urban cultures.

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Website History - an analytical grid

Niels Brügger, Associate Professor, Institute of Information and Media Studies, University of Aarhus

This paper puts on the agenda some of the new and fundamental theoretical and methodological problems within the field of website history. The focus will be on questions emanating from the specific being of the primary object of study: The website itself. The discussion will take as its starting point a research project that aims at writing the history of the first ten years of an individual website, namely the website of a big national public service broadcasting corporation from 1996 to 2006. This research project intends to answer two inter-related questions: What are the driving forces behind the creation and development of the website from 1996 to 2006, and what are the consequences of these for the website? And what theoretical and methodological new developments are required in order to be able to analyze the website? Taking this research project as a point of departure the paper will address the following three clusters of interrelated topics. 1) Website history: What are the possible analytical objets of a history of a website? What sources can be used? And which theories can be used in a historical study of the website? 2) The website: What should be understood by 'website'? How can we conceptualize the website in terms of medium and text? 3) The archived website: What characterizes the archived website as document? — a question that will be adressed both from a theoretical perspective and based on the findings of the first international test of the appearance of various archived versions of the same website from the same date in different archives. In relation to all three topics the discussion will take place in critical dialogue with existing relevant theories (media and textual theories, theories of history, etc.).

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The Hypertext Inquisition: Virtual Ethnography as a Method for Web History

Gordon Carlson, Gordon Carlson, PhD Student, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Research Assistant, Electronic Visualization Laboratory

Because the Web is a collection of information, viewpoints, facts, and other interconnected resources, it has its own story a researcher can delve into. This paper marries the approaches of ethnographers and other qualitative researchers with the historical artifacts of the Web. The paper will construct an oral history by scouring the Web in much the way an interviewer would find people within a group. Just as a researcher would ask one interviewee questions about finding other good sources, the paper will use the Web's own search tools and internal reference systems to select, locate, and explore appropriate websites for knowledge. This approach will produce a specific history which might compete with others, just as oral histories are apt to do. However, the approach has yielded positive results with people both as histories and starting points for future endeavors. The paper begins by justifying which elements of Web history to study (in the form of keywords and search terms). Next, it searches the Web using the same sources any normal user might employ (search engines and other primary repositories). It then performs a virtual oral history on these artifacts, using the metaphor of conversation (where a website is a person and a webpage is a specific discussion), and compiles them to create a history of the Web as seen through the collective eyes of websites and web pages. The advent of popular Web 2.0 tools and powerful search systems yield literal connections and recommendations within the metaphorical oral history framework. We are not constrained by flat hyperlinks; we can use recommendations and weighted results. The result is an oral history of the Web as reported by its constituent elements much as an organization can construct an oral history through interviewing members of the group.

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Webmuseum.dk

Ida Engholm, Associate Professor, the Danish Centre for Design Research

Since the emergence of the WWW in the early 1990's, the internet has become one of the most of important tools for information, entertainment, trade and social contacts. From a primitive, text-based medium the web has become a highly advanced and complex mass-multi-medium representing multiple forms of design. Despite the importance of the web as a design medium, the development of web site design has only been sporadically described, and no historical documentation has yet been assembled of web design history. This paper presents a new initiative, which uses a research approach to document and describe Danish web design history in an international perspective. The initiative is called webmuseum.dk; it is an online source of information on web design history. The paper describes the museum’s theoretical framework and its basis in design history and material culture studies and discusses the implications of this framework for its recording and collection strategy and concept of “works”. Furthermore, the paper discusses the museum's different presentation levels and reflects on the background for the structure and presentation of exhibits. The museum is launched in September 2008 and will be demonstrated and presented in connection with the Web History Conference. The museum has been developed by the Centre for Design Research; from September 2008 it will be operated by the Danish Museum of Art and Design.

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Post-disaster information environments: early internet users during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

Megan Finn, PhD Candidate, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley

Calls for new information and communication technologies (ICTs) following recent American disasters such as Katrina and the Virginia Tech Massacre reveal a poor understanding of the socially situated nature of ICTs. These proposals beg the question: How do people actually use ICTs to make sense of the world in the period following a disaster? I examine how information influences how people experience a disaster, employing theoretical work from the social studies of information to help understand people's information-related practices following a disaster. I am working on a historical ethnography employing a variety of historical sources as well as interviews about two case studies of information environments from the period following Loma Prieta: the Spanish-speaking community; and early users of the internet. The juxtaposition of The Well users with users of Spanish-speaking radio provides a potentially insightful lens with which to examine two different groups experiencing the same disaster with in different social situated information environments. The choice of examining a historical disaster is quite intentional and somewhat political.  This paper will focus on the information-related practices of early internet users after Loma Prieta and post-disaster online practices today.  I plan explore the idea that though internet technology today is different than the BBS systems used by early internet users, the institutions which shape post-disaster information environments are important and enduring.  I will compare research about the online reactions to events such as Virginia Tech and Katrina to understand if the practical and theoretical lessons from the past are useful to understanding people's information-related practices today. In 1989, some people in the Bay Area were using the internet, particularly online mailing lists and bulletin boards such as Usenet and The Well. At that time, the internet was just beginning to gain popularity, but still considered outside of mainstream America. Indeed, the internet was referred to as, " the electronic underground" (Miller, The Wall Street Journal, 1989). Importantly, The Well worked after the earthquake, and became an important venue for its users to help each other, as well as communicating with those outside of the Bay Area (for example, see Pernick et al, 1995; www.well.com/conf/welltales/timeline.html ). In fact, activities on The Well during Loma Prieta transformed some people's relationships with the site, (e.g. Figallo, 2005: page 9; www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/240/The-WELL-at-20-with-Howard-Rhein-page01.html ) and arguably with their views of information technology.

 

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The evolution of extremist recruiting on the web: a rhetoric of links

Alexander Halavais, Assistant Professor, Quinnipiac University

There is some interest in the ways in which new media may be used to recruit new adherents--often young people--to extremist organizations. Violent racist organizations, among others, have made heavy use of new technologies to distribute their message. Popular attention has focused on sensational uses of media: especially music and video games. But these organizations make sophisticated use of the World Wide Web, as well, and the ways in which the web is used have changed over time. In particular, these organizations present gradually more extreme messages over time; or, more accurately, over links. Sites are made accessible to the mainstream browser that present a relatively tame message (e.g., arguments that there is a white culture in the US worth preserving). This site provides links to other sites, which in turn link to more and more extreme sites. At the end of this chain might be, for example, a simple text document providing explicit instructions on how best to capture and lynch someone by dragging. Most of these sites are hidden behind members-only sites, and still more have been ignored by the archives. Surprisingly, however, there are both archived and current sites that provide a picture of how recruiting messages have evolved, and the application of this new “rhetoric of hyperlinks” to draw a reader into expressions of increasingly extreme viewpoints. The work presented here examines the extent of archiving efforts for publicly available White Nationalist and other hate and extremist sites in the United States, and the development of recruiting strategies since 2000.

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Web archiving in research and historical global collaboratories

Charles van den Heuvel, Senior Researcher, Virtual Knowledge Studio, Amsterdam

The World Wide Web is becoming a major source of information for researchers in the humanities. However, the rudimentary design of the interface to these web archives (e.g. the interface of the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive consists only of links mentioning dates) limits the ways in which web archives can be exploited for research. Researchers, individually and collectively, enrich web archives through their own linking and annotating activities. This contextual knowledge production by researchers also forms part of humanity’s collective memory and needs to be preserved together with the original content. However, the web-based knowledge of researchers is also dynamic and ephemeral, posing problems for cultural heritage. Traditional archive and library practices seem problematic. Nevertheless there are interesting examples of pre-web initiatives in the history of documentation of the first half of the 20th Century in which European scholars, like Patrick Geddes, Paul Otlet, Otto Neurath, Wilhelm Ostwald began exploring technologies for scholarly collaborations on a global level. Are these pre-web initiatives with designs for interfaces and protocols of collective data enrichment also useful for developing strategies to assess, to research, to annotate and to preserve more dynamic and ephemeral forms of digital cultural heritage, like web archiving? I discuss this set of questions by focusing on Paul Otlet’s views on substitutes for the book, dynamic interfaces, infrastructures and protocols for collective annotating by scholars. Finally I will deal with the question whether annotation can be a selection tool in the choice which web archives to preserve for collective memory.

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Historicizing Webcam Culture: The Telefetish as Virtual Object

Ken Hillis, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

My presentation focuses on the history of webcam culture in order to assess and historicize the complicated meanings of the term “object” in virtual settings. Specifically, I examine the use of web cameras among some English-speaking, first world gay/queer men in the late-1990s to early-2000s. The forerunners of today’s “lifecasters” who transmit webcam images of themselves 24/7 through such commercialized venues as justin.tv, these technologically-savvy yet frequently marginalized men constitute an historical vanguard that turned to the Web as a new form of media centrality and as the latest manifestation of the progress myth in order to perform personal identity claims. As part of a response to cultural homophobia, they made claims to materially exist in the “here and the now” through an ambivalent strategy of virtual visibility that also allowed them, as moving images on the screen, to remain “at a distance” from viewers. In doing so, they enacted on the Web an updated version of a much longer history of the dynamics of being “in the closet.” Yet at the same time, these men were at the forefront of developing the kinds of now-accepted identity claims more centrally connected to the power of online moving images to fully stand in for or even supplant the individuals or referents behind the images themselves. My analysis of the practices and techniques developed by these men indicates the historical emergence of a new form of fetish, the online moving image of the webcam operator as digital fetish—what I term the telefetish—that is still manifest in contemporary Web 2.0 applications. This history is important, for it complicates widely-held understandings of the meaning of “object” while also renovating theories of the fetish that insist it must always be a visible material object. Empiricist understanding holds that an object is “a material thing that can be seen and touched.” A divergent definition, dating from the Renaissance, holds it as “something placed before or presented to the eyes or other senses” (OED). The idea of the digital virtual object can be understood as a return to or renovation of this pre-Modern meaning in that “something” can mean anything apprehended intellectually but also anything visible or tangible and relatively stable in form. The word “object,” then, can reference a material thing and a concept or idea. With respect to the Web and the history of the vanguard group I describe above, I argue that the idea of virtual objects influences the way viewers experience real-time Web-based images of human beings. The emergence of the virtual telefetish, for example, allows viewers and operators alike to experience an operator’s digital image not only as a representation—an idea—but also as a seemingly material, animated trace of the operator’s embodied reality.

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A History of Allah.com

Albrecht Hofheinz, Albrecht Hofheinz, Associate Professor, Deptartment of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo

This case study analyzes the development of the web page Allah.com and related pages that for some time presented themselves as being the 'official site' of the Sudanese Sammaniyya (an Islamic religious brotherhood in the mystical tradition). Internet 'archeology' -- chiefly relying on the Internet Archive and an analysis of whois information -- helps to unearth a different picture. The web site turns out to be the work of an Egyptian Muslim emigrated to the United States who uses it to promote his own mission, his own understanding of Islam. He draws on a variety of symbolic resources, including the "spiritual heritage" of a "traditional shaykhs" such as the Sammani Hasan al-Fatih, and uses these resources to develop his own personal response to Islamic revivalism. Allah.com is an example of how the Internet furthers an ever growing assertiveness among modern Muslims to construct their 'own' Islam (even after the original Sammaniyya has disassociated itself from the site), to assume authority to speak out and represent this Islam to the whole world, and to assume personal responsibility for spreading this understanding to a generalized audience - 'everyone'. In terms of methodology, the paper provides a detailed example for how much information an careful hermeneutical textual analysis (i.e., an 'old' method) can yield also if applied to 'new' types of textual material.

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Collecting and Preserving Webbed Memories From the Virginia Tech Tragedy

Jeremy Hunsinger, Information Ethics Fellow, Center for Information Policy Research, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee & Brent Jesiek, Manager, Center for Digital DIscourse and Culture, VIrginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Memory preserved provides grounding for our future trajectories. For countless thousands worldwide, the plurality of trajectories surrounding the events of April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech was a break from their everyday lives. The shock of that day demanded new understandings of the world, the renegotiation of common understandings, and various mnemotechnical practices. These processes in turn called for a memory of the web, but more than a formalized archival memory. The memories had to be memorial, and inclusive of the plurality of those affected. This memorial was for the community and memories found in colleagues, friends, and global community accessible through the internet. Out of our shared tragedy came the need for shared memories on which to build new knowledges and imagine new futures. We argue that the April 16 Archive is a pragmatic and outwardly social archive that does not totalize nor dominate the memories of the participants, but instead allows for the open and social re/construction of the memories found on the web. Two days after the April 16 tragedy at Virginia Tech, tending to still-fresh emotional wounds and trying to nurture a sense of community, a discussion occurred that would lead to the digitization of memories from around the world. Enabling the inscription of shared experience and shared grief provided for the emergence of a new pathway for re-imagining past events. Conversation over beers in a pub in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia gradually wandered to the idea of preserving and sharing memories and the websites they arise within. In the collegial atmosphere of the pub, a need was recognized and a response began to crystallize. We sought out a set of tactics and tools that could capture memories, allowing anyone to commit memories from April 16th to our shared social meaning. It was agreed that Virginia Tech’s should launch a new web site and archive at the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture (CDDC) to collect the many web-based artifacts qua memories created in the wake of the tragedy. We collected our first items from the web and the general public on April 24, and over the next few days more items trickled in. Confident with the stability and functionality of the system, on Monday April 30 both the CDDC and Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences did formal press releases announcing the launch of the April 16 Archive (Elliot, 2007). Within less than two weeks of the tragedy, our shared archive was being realized. Elliot, J. (2007, May 1). “Center for Digital Discourse and Culture launches April 16 Archive.” Virginia Tech News. Retrieved 11/29/07 from www.vtnews.vt.edu/story.php

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Inside Stories v. Old News and Recent Additions

Kajsa Klein, PhD student, The Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, Stockholm University

This paper draws on two separate (and rather different) studies of web site development. Firstly, conclusions from a study of the development of the main UN web site 1997 - 2007. Three main production phases are being identified. I also discuss advantages and disadvantages with relying on the UN web team's own chronological list of site additions as basis for the analysis. Secondly, I will share some methodological conclusions from my participative academic-activist research of the Democracy Aid ' 04 campaign – a Swedish web-based initiative encouraging world citizens to donate money to the US group MoveOn.org. One major source of research material for this second study was email exchanges between US and non-US activists (including the researcher, who at the time was campaign director). Another important source was server statistics. I discuss challenges of researching political activism from the inside, after-the-fact. Among the key points of interest: dealing with the mix of personal and political, distancing oneself from self-created spin, and finally: revealing the tricks of the trade.

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Analyzing and comparing the history of the new media strategies of the media companies

Tomi Lindblom, PhD Student, University of Helsinki

Media companies have had various strategies for the Internet and for the wireless services during the recent years. In my paper I’ll present the first results of my Ph. D. project in which I’m studying the history of the new media strategies of three major Finnish media companies in 1994-2004. I’m giving answers to the questions of when and how the media companies started their new media operations and which strategies did they follow. My approach is to classify the companies into four different categories: active strategy, careful strategy, permissive strategy, and passive strategy. I’m also analysing the new media strategies by using the classification made by Afuah & Tucci (2001). They’re using terms like dominant material logic, competency trap, fear of cannibalization and emotional attachment to describe the media companies attitude towards new media during the years. As the third way to analyse the history of the new media strategies I’m using the classifications of convergence made by Dennis (2002) and Murdock (2000). Dennis mentions the four stages of convergence that include an incremental awakening beginning in the early 1980s, the period of early adoption in the 1990s followed by nearly uncritical acceptance by the end of that decade, and finally in the early 2000s the presumptions of failure. Murdock mentions three stages: convergence of cultural forms, of the communication systems and of the company ownership. My paper shows how the new media strategies of the media companies have changed during the period of 10 years (1994-2004) and how the companies have succeeded with their strategies. Sources: Afuah, Allan & Tucci, Christopher L. (2001): Internet Business Models and Strategies. Text and Cases. Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin. Dennis, Everette E. (2003): Prospects for a Big Idea – Is There a Future for Convergence? The International Journal on Media Management, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2003, pp. 7-11. Murdock, Graham (2000): Digital Futures: European Television in the Age of Convergence. In: Wieten, Jan; Murdock, Graham & Dahlgren, Peter (eds.): Television Across Europe: A Comparative Introduction. (pp. 35-57). Lontoo: SAGE Publications.

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The World Wide Web of Humanities: Archives for Researching the Web

Eric T. Meyer, Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, Ralph Schroeder, Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute & Christine Madsen, Librarian and DPhil Student, Oxford Internet Institute

In March 2008, JISC (U.K.) and NEH (U.S.) announced five projects selected for funding under a transatlantic digitisation programme. The World Wide Web of Humanities was unique among the recipients in that it is focused on building a suite of open source tools and methods for data collection and curation, while the other funded projects focused on building topical archives. The U.K. partners (the Oxford Internet Institute and Hanzo Ltd, London) are working with the Internet Archive in the U.S. and focusing on the changing online presence of e-Humanities by means of tracing its networks over time. There is not currently a set of empirical evidence that can be used to track how e-Research in the humanities has been framed, funded, and implemented internationally. This project includes creating a collection of up to 250 million Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) which are being assembled from existing data in the Internet Archive as well as new data collected from the web based on a number of seeds and crawls. This is done by exploiting the Internet Archive to undertake a hyperlink analysis of the domain of e-Humanities, with a particular focus on the U.S. and U.K. where e-Humanities efforts have been most well-established. The collection will be designed to help researchers and policy makers gain an understanding both of the state of the art of e-Humanities and of historical trends and developments. The Internet Archive is a unique resource that permits doing historical analysis retroactively, tracing networks over time. In this way, the proposed project will make an important contribution to charting the dynamics of online knowledge in the humanities. In this session, the team from the Oxford Internet Institute will provide an overview of the project, discuss the impact digital collections are having on the humanities, and speculate on the future of this and other digitisation projects.

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An archaeology of the internet: some tips for using the Internet archives

Stefano De Paoli, Postdoc Reserach Fellow, the National University of Ireland, Maynooth

The advent of the Internet has raised many methodological questions and challenges for those interested in studying the social dynamics, the groups formation, and the computer-based social interactions. During the last decade we observed a flourishing movement devoted to the creation and implementation of methods for studying the above mentioned issues. From the qualitative point of view, in particular, ethnography based methodologies seems to rule the scenario (e.g. Hine, 2002; Hakken, 1999). However, with their emphasis on the observation of the actual existing interactions ethnographers loose the chance to study one of the core elements of the Internet: the archives. It is worthwhile to note that the Internet is densely populated of many archives which seems to have a central role in any social Internet-based activity. Most common existing archives over the Internet are of course the Mailing Lists archives, however many other archives exist such as source code archives or the well known Internet Archive. According to Foucault (1969) archives cannot be considered as repositories of data where the documents are stored in a cumulative and linear way. He maintains, instead, that the concept of archive consists in a system of formation or transformation of statements. There is then, for Foucault, a way for approaching the historical documents stored in archives that deal with the role of power. In other words thorough an analysis of the archives it is possible to address the discursive and practical conditions of the existence for truth and meaning. In order to illustrate the usefulness of the archaeology of the web, I propose some tips based on my research on Open Source development teams. In Open Source development, archives are more than repositories of documents, they are, instead the central element of any communication among software developers and users. REFERENCES Foucault, M. (1969), L'archéologie du savoir Paris, Gallimard; trad. it. L'archeologia del sapere, Milano, Rizzoli, 1972. Hakken, D. (1999), Cyborgs@Cyberspace?: An Ethnographer Looks to the Future, Routledge, New York. Hine, C. (2000), Virtual ethnography, Sage Pubblication, Thousand Oaks.

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Web Industries, Economies, Aesthetics: Mapping the Look of the Web in the Dot-com Era

Megan Sapnar, Doctoral Student, the Media and Cultural Studies program, the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Although recent scholarship by cultural geographers and historians of information labor have critically evaluated the business culture, work practices, and geographic clustering of new media industries during the Internet bubble, there is surprisingly little academic work that links the social context of the dot-com era to historical understandings of Web style, production practices, and organizational structures. In other words, how does the economic and industrial organization of new media industries relate to the textual processes and stylistic forms that get produced? While television and film studies have benefited from historical investigations that account for the “look” of a text alongside the (re)-organization of cultural industries, studies of Web design and production have yet to develop mature and historically grounded methods for analyzing the cultural artifacts that emerged from the Web’s first decade. The rise of commercial Web production in the 1990’s was an uncertain endeavor marked by guessing and false starts, moments of collaboration and bitter conflicts between an incredibly wide range of players: amateurs turned freelance designers, graphic designers who joined boutique web design shops, web service providers that morphed into interactive agencies, advertising agencies that established in-house new media arms, and global Internet consultancy firms built from numerous mergers and acquisitions. In this paper, I explore how industry battles and corporate re-structuring impacted the creative labor of web design during the dot-com boom. By mapping shifts in Web industries against economist Hyman Minsky’s model of a speculative bubble, I concentrate on the ways that stock market valuation might translate into particular modes of production, industrial organization, and the highly contested discourses surrounding “quality” web design and aesthetics that were circulating at this time. This approach, I suggest, can help us to better analyze Web sites as cultural forms that respond to particular socio-historical, economic, and industrial contexts.

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The Evolutionary History of Web Design

Sergio Riccardo Sparviero, Postdoctoral Researcher, Dublin City University

This essays comprises two related topics. The first topic is a novel multidisciplinary approach for understanding media change and explain the dynamics of the media sector, which draws from different schools of thought including institutional and evolutionary economics, complex evolving systems, service innovations and cultural / media studies. Essentially, following this approach we propose to understand the world wide web as a system, to identify modules (the sub-units of the systems) and to describe change as the shifting relationships between these modules. Moreover, we explain the advantages of following a methodology typical of institutional / evolutionary economic analysis, i.e. to analyze change through an history friendly approach and by using key concepts such as technological trajectories and regulatory regimes. The second topic is the presentation of a web site and collaborative tool that can be used to provide an account of the evolution of web design following the approach just described. The modules we identify are: the design tools, the (formally) standardized technologies; other technologies, languages and de facto standards; Internet browsers; other ICTs and web applications, and regulations changes to the ownerships and industry structure. The purpose is to understand and explain innovation in web design as the result of changes in the technological trajectories of each of these modules and as the result of the influence that they exert over each other. One of the main purpose and advantage of this type of tool is the idea of attracting the collaboration of different types of contributors including academics, software developers and web designers.

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The Phenomenon of Social Networking – self-portrayal on the Web

Dominika Szope, Research Fellow, Faculty Media Science, University of Siegen

Social networking sites reveal the latest form in the development of public spheres. Especially self-portrayals as they can be seen at myspace.com or YouTube, indicate a change of the public sphere. They lead to a new way of treating personal information and thus to an altered conception of identity. The possibility of cultivating one’s image on the Internet, however, is not new. The early integration of one’s Webcam image on a homepage or the regularly published video blogs already heralded a new fashion of presenting oneself to others. At the same time, these applications have been criticized for giving rise to voyeurism, as it is seen today when watching YouTube entries. Yet the new social software applications indeed evoke a new situation. The new form of user participation based on social software reveals an increased will of those at the grass roots to act and thereby also changes the conditions of producing self-portrayals. With the expanded possibilities to act, provided by social software, the user finds the opportunity to show and articulate himself, to be heard and seen. Particularly the aspects of truth and the users’ capacity for action reveal a development, which can be presumed to indicate an altered public sphere. The notion of Dingpolitik (thing politics) (Latour) appears adequate here to describe the present-day user, his understanding of truth and capacity for action. The aim of the contribution is to historically reflect self-portrayal on the Web and explicate that the aspect of voyeurism, for which numerous platforms are reproached today, has at least partially lost its validity.

 

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Researching Online News and Civic Engagement: The Historic Development of BBC News Online's Election Sites

Einar Thorsen, PhD candidate, Journalism Studies, the Media School, Bournemouth University

BBC News Online has in the ten years since its launch moved from being perceived as a late entry in the online sphere among British and international competitors, to becoming the by far largest online news provider in the UK and one of the most popular news websites globally. Given this dominance, a historical perspective of BBC New Online is crucial in understanding the development of online journalism and online civic engagement within the BBC, and the Corporation's role in influencing the evolution of such forms and practices more widely. This paper will focus on the BBC's dedicated UK General Election websites in 1997, 2001 and 2005. The Election 97 site went live on May 1, 1997, some seven months before the inception of BBC News Online in November 1997. The subsequent sites, Vote 2001 and Election 2005, were then incorporated into the main news site and instead presented as dedicated sections. Through a historical discussion of each of these sites, this paper will address pertinent methodological issues faced when analysing online news and interactive content. In particular it will focus on the problems of dealing with an object that is no longer available in its original form (Election 97), and the development of a content management system by BBC engineers that would mitigate such issues in the future (Vote 2001 and Election 2005). The paper will also demonstrate how the BBC from the very start attempted to implement a philosophy of encouraging feedback from and engaging people with content on the site (providing in the words of its policy documents 'democratic value and civic engagement'), and in particular the methodological issues faced by qualitative and quantitative analysis of such discussions (Election 2005). Problems concerning the BBC's manual process for updating 'user generated content' and new issues arising from their recently implemented system allowing automation will also be discussed.

 

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