Digital media and network technologies are now part of everyday life. The Internet has become the backbone of communication, commerce, and media; the ubiquitous mobile phone connects us with others as it removes us from any stable sense of location. Networked Publics examines the ways that the social and cultural shifts created by these technologies have transformed our relationships to (and definitions of) place, culture, politics, and infrastructure.
The Internet lets us share perfect copies of our work with a worldwide audience at virtually no cost. We take advantage of this revolutionary opportunity when we make our work “open access”: digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Open access is made possible by the Internet and copyright-holder consent, and many authors, musicians, filmmakers, and other creators who depend on royalties are understandably unwilling to give their consent.
The use of open-source software (OSS)--readable software source code that can be copied, modified, and distributed freely--has expanded dramatically in recent years. The number of OSS projects hosted on SourceForge.net (the largest hosting Web site for OSS), for example, grew from just over 100,000 in 2006 to more than 250,000 at the beginning of 2011. But why are some projects successful--that is, able to produce usable software and sustain ongoing development over time--while others are abandoned?
The urban youth frequenting the Internet cafés of Accra, Ghana, who are decidedly not members of their country’s elite, use the Internet largely as a way to orchestrate encounters across distance and amass foreign ties--activities once limited to the wealthy, university-educated classes. The Internet, accessed on second-hand computers (castoffs from the United States and Europe), has become for these youths a means of enacting a more cosmopolitan self.
Online communities are among the most popular destinations on the Internet, but not all online communities are equally successful. For every flourishing Facebook, there is a moribund Friendster—not to mention the scores of smaller social networking sites that never attracted enough members to be viable. This book offers lessons from theory and empirical research in the social sciences that can help improve the design of online communities.
The global explosion of online activity is steadily transforming the relationship between government and the public. The first wave of change, “e-government,” enlisted the Internet to improve management and the delivery of services. More recently, “e-democracy” has aimed to enhance democracy itself using digital information and communication technology. One notable example of e-democratic practice is the government-sponsored (or government-authorized) online forum for public input on policymaking.
We live in an “Information Age” of overabundant data and lightning-fast transmission. Yet although information and knowledge represent key factors in most economic decisions, we often forget that data, information, and knowledge are products created and traded within the knowledge economy. In Gurus and Oracles, Miklos Sarvary describes the information industry--the far-flung universe of companies whose core business is to sell information to decision makers.
Web 2.0 tools, including blogs, wikis, and photo sharing and social networking sites, have made possible a more participatory Internet experience. Much of this technology is available for mobile phones, where it can be integrated with such device-specific features as sensors and GPS. From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen examines how this increasingly open, collaborative, and personalizable technology is shaping not just our social interactions but new kinds of civic engagement with cities, communities, and spaces.
Digital production tools and online networks have dramatically increased the general visibility, accessibility, and diversity of pornography. Porn can be accessed for free, anonymously, and in a seemingly endless range of niches, styles, and formats. In Carnal Resonance, Susanna Paasonen moves beyond the usual debates over the legal, political, and moral aspects of pornography to address online porn in a media historical framework, investigating its modalities, its affect, and its visceral and disturbing qualities.
The computer, writes Peter Lunenfeld, is the twenty-first century’s culture machine. It is a dream device, serving as the mode of production, the means of distribution, and the site of reception. We haven’t quite achieved the flying cars and robot butlers of futurist fantasies, but we do have a machine that can function as a typewriter and a printing press, a paintbrush and a gallery, a piano and a radio, the mail as well as the mail carier.