« Ch 01: Intro | Home | Ch 03: Net History »

Archive for the Ch 02: Concepts Category

Politics: Web 2.0 Conference April 17-18 - final programme published

Posted on Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 6:03 PM by Andrew Chadwick

I'd just like to bring to the attention readers of the Internet Politics blog the final programme of the Politics: Web 2.0 conference I'm organising at Royal Holloway. We started planning for this back in September. The call for papers far exceeded our expectations and it's probably going to be one of the largest academic conferences on the internet and politics to date.

The conference will feature six distinguished keynotes, 120 papers organised into 41 panels, and over 180 participants drawn from over 30 countries. The keynote speakers are:

Robin Mansell, Professor of New Media, LSE: "The Light and the Dark Sides of Web 2.0."

Helen Margetts, Professor of Internet and Society, University of Oxford: "Digital-era Governance: Peer production, Co-creation and the Future of Government."

Rachel Gibson, Professor of Political Science, University of Manchester: "Trickle-up Politics?: the Impact of Web 2.0 Technologies on Citizen Participation."

Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication, University of Leeds: "Networks and Commons: Can The Popular and The Political Be Connected?"

Micah Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum/TechPresident: "The Revolution Will Be Networked: How Open Source Politics is Emerging in America."

Michael Turk, US National Cable & Telecommunications Association and e-campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 04: "Managed Chaos: Bringing Order to User-Generated Activism."

Quite a few papers have been uploaded already, and I expect to see several more on the site by the end of tomorrow.

Lawrence Ampofo, a PhD student, will be liveblogging the event. There's also a Facebook Event Page where you may see the odd video or photo.

For more information, see the relevant section of the New Political Communication Unit site.

If you'd like a quick take on what web 2.0 means for politics, there's an excerpt from the introduction to the Handbook of Internet Politics (Routledge, July 2008), by Phil Howard and I.

I also have an article coming out toward the end of this year in I/S: The Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society. The article is entitled: "Web 2.0: New Challenges for the Study of E-Democracy in an Era of Informational Exuberance."

Theorising the politics of web 2.0: an excerpt from the forthcoming Introduction to the Handbook of Internet Politics by Andrew Chadwick and Philip N. Howard

Posted on Thu, Feb 21, 2008 at 12:02 PM by Andrew Chadwick

As part of writing the Introduction to the forthcoming Handbook of Internet Politics, Phil Howard and I wanted to try a basic 'first take' on what web 2.0 might mean for politics. We sought to briefly define it and to tease out its broader implications for political behaviour in a way that stays close to its technological characteristics without reducing it to those characteristics. We took as our point of departure Tim O'Reilly's influential approach. No surprises there, but we were intrigued by how readily O'Reilly's technology-centric themes could feed into broader conceptual ideas and examples of value to social scientists. Here's what we came up with - posted on the New Political Communication Unit blog. We hope you find it useful, and, dare we say it, that you might like to add your comments...

[Note: This is a pre-publication excerpt from Andrew Chadwick and Philip N. Howard 'Introduction: New Directions in Internet Politics Research' in Andrew Chadwick and Philip N. Howard (eds) (2008, in press) The Handbook of Internet Politics. New York and London: Routledge. You can read the book's table of contents at Routledge's site]

The decline of participatory television

Posted on Thu, Sep 13, 2007 at 5:47 PM by Andrew Chadwick

Over the last few months in the UK, there has been a fierce debate regarding the ethics of television. This has been fuelled by a number of scandals around racism, sexism and homophobia in reality TV shows (Celebrity Big Brother, the recent series of 'ordinary' Big Brother, now Hell's Kitchen); 'rip-off' or fabricated viewer phone-ins; and general concern over hypercommercialization in less regulated areas of satellite and cable TV, such as the quiz channels that occupy the obscure reaches of the satellite listings. Public trust in viewer participation formats seems to be at a low ebb.

The parlous state of some British television, and surely one of the forces driving the exodus away from the medium among the under-30s was brought home to me last Friday.

I was watching a Channel 4 programme about what had happened to the latest Big Brother contestants following the end of the series. There were the usual tours of radio and TV studios, tabloid photo sessions, and so on. There was also a rather heated argument between two of the housemates: Charley and Chanelle. The argument itself was not interesting, but one of Charley's outbursts was. At one point, she started singing the hook line from the well-known Janis Joplin song 'Mercedes Benz' (you know it: "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz").

Charley proceeded to boastfully explain that she had sung that line regularly during her time in the Big Brother house because she had been 'sponsored' by Mercedes to do so. She went on to state that she had been rewarded with a Mercedes sports car. This particular scene lasted only a few seconds, then it was off to the next photo session, and so on.

Was it true? Well, yes: she did sing that song on several occasions while in the house.

Did she get the car for doing so? This is where it becomes more difficult. We do not know. A web search has thrown up nothing more than a speculative thread on the entertainment and gossip website Digital Spy.

Let's suppose it is true. If it is, this was one of those rare, often very brief, moments which seem to crystallise something perfectly. The great hopes for participatory television formats, especially the sense of wonder at Big Brother when it first emerged, must now be put in contexts such as this: a housemate (possibly) 'sponsored' by a car manufacturer to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds, to spread brand awareness by behaving in a deceptively spontaneous manner. And then we wonder why the participatory web has taken off so rapidly. People are turning to it for multiple reasons, but authenticity must surely be one of them.

[Crossposted at the New Political Communication Unit blog]

Update 1: there is an excellent response to this post by Nick Anstead.
Update 2: the vote-rigging scandals continue here and here.
Edited on: Fri, Sep 21, 2007 8:11 PM

RSA Event - The Social Impact of the Web - final programme

Posted on Thu, May 24, 2007 at 2:51 PM by Andrew Chadwick

Here's the final programme for tomorrow's RSA Event. Hope to see you there.

The Social Impact of the Web:

Society, Government and the Internet

25 May 2007

Conference Programme

13.00 Registration

13.30 Welcome and Introduction by Matthew Taylor

13.35 Politics and the Web

Georgina Henry, Editor, Comment is Free & Editor, The Guardian

Andrew Chadwick, Head, Department of Politics and International Relations and Director, New Political Communication Unit, Royal Holloway, University of London

Tom Steinberg, Founder and Director, mySociety and former policy analyst

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, RSA – Chair

14.05 Q & A

14.30 Coffee break

14.50 Web 2.0 and Social Innovation

MT Rainey, Founder, Horse’s Mouth Foundation

Bronwyn Kunhardt, Former Director of Citizenship, Microsoft

Nico Macdonald, Founder, Spy

Tommy Hutchinson, Founder, I - genius - Chair

15.20 Q & A

15.50 Does the web need a constitution?

Professor Cass Sunstein, Karl N. Llewellyn Dist. Service Prof. of Jurisprudence, Law School, Dept. of Political Science and the College, University of Chicago

Will Davies, Goldsmiths, University of London - Chair

16.30 Q & A

17.00 Close

Edited on: Thu, May 24, 2007 2:53 PM

RSA Conference on The Social Impact of the Web: Society, Government and the Internet

Posted on Tue, Apr 24, 2007 at 12:04 AM by Andrew Chadwick

RSA great hall

I'm one of the speakers at the RSA's special conference on 'The Social Impact of the Web: Society, Government and the Internet' on May 25th. Top of the bill is Professor Cass Sunstein, School of Law, University of Chicago. The other speakers are: Tom Steinberg, founder of the wonderful MySociety, William Davies, Institute for Public Policy Research, Matthew Taylor, Director of the RSA and former Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to the Prime Minister, and Georgina Henry, Assistant Editor of The Guardian.

For more information and to book a place (free of charge), see the RSA site.

This promises to be an excellent event. I've been to the RSA a couple of times before and it's a superb venue.

A quote from the original email invitation, courtesy of David Wilcox's blog:

"The RSA is looking to explore the political culture and norms that the internet has been instrumental in fostering, both in relation to centralised democratic politics, and more diffuse social and civic networks, including blogging.
Our view in essence is that the high hopes of the 90s for e-democracy and new forms of on-line consultation and community mobilisation have not been met. Rather than fostering new forms of constructive engagement, dialogue and 'pro-social' community action, the type of politics most favoured by the internet seems to be conversations between fellow believers, anti-establishment cynicism and single issue mobilisation. Too many attempts by public authorities to use the web simply involved putting existing information and processes on-line.
The communication model has been vertical and mainly downward. But we think the emergence of web 2.0 offers an opportunity to revive the idealism of a decade ago. While internet 1.0 continued to reinforce an 'us' versus 'them' divide between citizens and power, we can envisage web 2.0 encouraging a rich and constructive 'us and us' dialogue in which citizens deliberate, innovate and act together."

Blogs: the British backlash

Posted on Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 10:41 AM by Andrew Chadwick

Over the last few weeks, a number of articles have appeared in the mainstream media commenting on the attempt by Jimmy Wales and Tim O'Reilly to create a civility code of practice for bloggers. In the UK, this debate was sparked off late last year by Matthew Taylor, outgoing adviser to Number 10. Wales' and O'Reilly's well-meaning article has given it a new lease of life.

One of the things that surprises me about the framing of these articles is how so many of them begin from the assumption that the blog format is 'now a decade old', or how it's somehow 'ten years on' and we need to 'take stock' because blogging hasn't 'taken off'. Victor Keegan writes in The Guardian that Technorati finds that there are 'only' 70 million blogs. I find this incredible. First, Radio Userland was invented in 1997 but had a miniscule user base for the first five years. Blogger.com was founded in 1999 and it too did not take off until 2002-2003. The RSS standard, arguably one of the only things that really defines what a blog actually is, was not even settled on until late 1999. The most successful all-round blogging applications were founded well after the turn of the century: Moveable Type (2001), Wordpress and Typepad (2003). Second, that there are 70 million more people (or groups of people) publishing their thoughts in a globally accessible medium than there were ten years ago strikes me as quite a significant change.

I was presenting at the UK Political Studies Association last Friday in Bath, and Dr Scott Wright made the excellent point that this framing is occurring all over the place now. He brought up the example of the finding that 17 per cent of the british public have visited the Conservative Party's website. This, too, is usually framed as 'only 17 per cent'. But if you turn it around the other way, the very fact that 17 per cent of the British public have bothered to 'lean forward' and use this purposive medium to visit the site is pretty significant, don't you think?

Crossposted at the New Political Communication Unit blog.

Chris Anderson "long tail" interview

Posted on Thu, Jul 13, 2006 at 10:03 AM by Andrew Chadwick

To follow up my earlier post on the political economy of the "long tail", there is a decent interview here with Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, in support of his new book.

Who controls the Internet?

Posted on Tue, Jul 04, 2006 at 8:24 AM by Andrew Chadwick

I'm in the middle of Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu's Who Controls the Internet? and enjoying it immensely. It's an entertaining read. I'm not sure I agree with its approach, especially the fact that it ignores almost all of the major research literature, but I suppose it's not that kind of book. Have a busy couple of weeks at work, with interviews for four posts and graduation ceremonies. Will post my thoughts later.

Brian McNair on the global digital news revolution

Posted on Sun, May 07, 2006 at 12:47 PM by Andrew Chadwick

An exciting trailer article for the new book. See also Jeff Jarvis's interesting article from the week before.

The long tail

Posted on Mon, Mar 06, 2006 at 11:07 AM by Andrew Chadwick

Chris Anderson's long tail chart

The theory of the 'long tail' is that online commerce and distribution is changing the economics of the media and entertainment industries. Ever wondered why a city center cinema, record store or bookseller has so few titles? It boils down to this: traditionally, movie studios, publishers and record companies tend to try (it doesn't always work) to create small numbers of 'big hit' products because the sunk costs of developing a film, book, or album can be more quickly and predictably recouped. Similarly, real space retail outlets (cinemas, city center record stores, booksellers) can only afford to sell 'hit' products because the relatively high cost of providing shelf or screen space for low-selling niche products makes it risky.

The long tail idea is that online distribution significantly reduces these costs, resulting in a sales/products curve like the one above. Because consumers can now be presented with a hugely expanded range of products, businesses can be built upon many products that have low sales, not just the traditional model - few products that have high sales.

Chris Anderson, a journalist, has been blogging the topic in the run-up to the publication of a new book on the subject in June 2006. Anderson writes:

'The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.
One example of this is the theory's prediction that demand for products not available in traditional bricks and mortar stores is potentially as big as for those that are. But the same is true for video not available on broadcast TV on any given day, and songs not played on radio. In other words, the potential aggregate size of the many small markets in goods that don't individually sell well enough for traditional retail and broadcast distribution may rival that of the existing large market in goods that do cross that economic bar.
The term refers specifically to the yellow part of the sales chart at upper left, which shows a standard demand curve that could apply to any industry, from entertainment to hard goods. The vertical axis is sales; the horizontal is products. The red part of the curve is the hits, which have dominated our markets and culture for most of the last century. The yellow part is the non-hits, or niches, which is where the new growth is coming from now and in the future.
Traditional retail economics dictate that stores only stock the likely hits, because shelf space is expensive. But online retailers (from Amazon to iTunes) can stock virtually everything, and the number of available niche products outnumber the hits by several orders of magnitude. Those millions of niches are the Long Tail, which had been largely neglected until recently in favor of the Short Head of hits.
When consumers are offered infinite choice, the true shape of demand is revealed. And it turns out to be less hit-centric than we thought. People gravitate towards niches because they satisfy narrow interests better, and in one aspect of our life or another we all have some narrow interest (whether we think of it that way or not).'

Why is this significant? Well, there are several reasons, but I have categorized this post under the 'political economy of Internet media' heading because I think it says something new and very interesting about how the Internet contributes to a more diverse and pluralistic media landscape. Long tail trends in the media industries mean that minority niche products stand more of a chance of finding a market.

At the same time, though, there is one problematic aspect.

It would be interesting to find out how many products that qualify as 'long tail' are actually the product of divisions and subdivisions of large media and entertainment conglomerates. There may be a case for arguing that the long tail is exaggerated because there is greater product diversity but not greater structural diversity in the market. It could be that the arbiters of taste remain a small but powerful elite, it's just that they're employing a more segmented approach. An illustration of this is News Corporation's recent acquisition of MySpace.

Are you a mociologist?

Posted on Tue, Nov 15, 2005 at 10:47 PM by Andrew Chadwick

John Sutherland has a good little interview in The Guardian's 'ideas' feature, with Joe Trippi, former Dean campaign manager, and author of the superb book The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

Apparently mociology is a term Trippi uses to refer to things we do with mobile, Internet-enabled devices.

As for blogging, Trippi has some views about why the Democrats have embraced a more interactive web strategy:

There is, Trippi says, no inherent reason for mociology to favour liberal causes - "the technology doesn't know or care what ideology is using it" - but, in practice, it has not yet become a tool for the right. "I think the one problem the right has on the internet and blogging is that they tend to be so disciplined about command and control," he suggests. "That's worked very well for them up to now. But it doesn't, and it won't, work for them on the net. Conservatives tend to use the net as a data communications vehicle. For them, it's a messaging machine. The Democrats - the progressives - are much better at growing big connected communities."

I'm not sure I'm entirely convinced by this. The net appeals to those with a libertarian (small 'l') outlook. You can be a libertarian Democrat, a libertarian Republican, even a libertarian Marxist. The net appeals to all of these people. The Bush team use the Internet in the way they do because they are on the authoritarian side of the libertarian-authoritarian spectrum. Things could be different with a different type of Republican...

Internet Studies as a discipline?

Posted on Tue, Oct 18, 2005 at 4:27 PM by Andrew Chadwick

The latest issue of The Information Society has some interesting contributions on the theme: 'What is Internet Studies?' Is Internet Studies a discipline, an interdisciplinary field, a fragmented mess, or does it exist at all? [Subscription required to access].

Do we need existing disciplinary lenses to study it, and are some lenses better than others? From my experience of writing Internet Politics, I'd say that the best academic literature on the Internet comes from the (firmly entrenched) disciplines of sociology, political science, and communication.

Technologies as complex ecosystems

Posted on Thu, Oct 13, 2005 at 5:41 PM by Andrew Chadwick

I was listening to the excellent TWiT (This Week In Tech) podcast the other day and was impressed by an argument made by Cory Doctorow, science fiction author and now EFF staff member, about technologies as 'complex ecosystems' with parasitical elements that contribute to their vibrance. In basic terms, the argument is that relatively 'open' technologies attract innovation, continuous improvement and development because they encourage parasitism. People pick up a technology, twist it, borrow elements from it, and hack together something different, better and newer. If technologies are relatively closed, they are less subject to this form of parasitism. Thus, it's better for all of us to have open technologies.

On the TWiT podcast Doctorow gave the example of the DVD format, which is very tightly restricted compared with, say, the CD. Thus, one of the reasons we have lots of innovation around the digitization of music is that the CD is an open format; it's easy to extract the data, compress it, move it, mix it, and republish it. Compare this with DVD, which, due to its restrictive nature (digital rights management), has not encouraged parasitism. He writes:

CD has a rich ecosystem, filled with parasites -- entrepreneurial organisms that move to fill every available niche. If you spent a thousand bucks on CDs ten years ago, the ecosystem for CDs would reward you handsomely. In the intervening decade, parasites who have found an opportunity to suck value out of the products on offer from the labels and the dupe houses by offering you the tools to convert your CDs to ring-tones, karaoke, MP3s, MP3s on iPods and other players, MP3s on CDs that hold a thousand percent more music -- and on and on.
DVDs live in a simpler, slower ecosystem, like a terrarium in a bottle where a million species have been pared away to a manageable handful. DVDs pay no such dividend. A thousand dollars' worth of ten-year old DVDs are good for just what they were good for ten years ago: watching. You can't put your kid into her favorite cartoon, you can't downsample the video to something that plays on your phone, and you certainly can't lawfully make a hard-drive-based jukebox from your discs.

The online text version of the argument is at Cory's website.

« Ch 01: Intro | Top | Ch 03: Net History »