10 november session

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Mirjam Dissel
Lieven Van Speybroeck


  • Users as developers
  • Wisdom of the crowd vs skill/knowledge of experts
  • (Old) mainstream media vs (new) democratized media
  • Classification of users
  • Corporate responses to further user-development/hacking/modifying/... of their products

Summary of key points raised in the texts:

Henry Jenkins - Fans, Gamers and Bloggers
NYU Press, Sept. 2006

(see also: here)

  • Originally (2001) misperceived due to unfortunate editorial changes
  • Bloggers as minutemen of the digital revolution
  • 2 kinds of media-power:
media concentration: "corporate" broadcasting
Grassroots media: user-driven
-> evolution of media is shaped through the interactions between both

Once a column appears, the writer's authorial control ends and theirs begins

Andrew Keen - The Cult of the Amateur
Crown Business, Jun. 2004

(see also: here)

  • Digital T.H. Huxley:
web 2.0: infinite monkeys providing infinite information for infinite readers, perpetuating the cycle of misinformation and ignorance.
Web 2.0: one long commercial break
  • Mainstream ("trustworthy) media vs democratized (flattened) media
Gatekeepers/experts (middlemen) vs wisdom of the crowd
-> loss of intermediaries (<-> opposite viewpoint on new media then Jenkins': creation of intermediary media
-> internet as a mirror: narcissistic approach to information
-> extinction of old media
  • Lack of media literacy: unable to distinguish the good from the bad

Eric S. Raymond - The New Hacker's Dictionary
The MIT Press, Oct. 1996

  • User: using the computer as a means rather than an end, someone who pays to use it
See: Real User: programmers that don't think twice before contacting the maintainer
  • Luser: using the computer (software) from the outside, without getting into the internals of the program.
  • User-friendly: programmer-hostile
  • Hacker: using the software from the inside

Lev Grossman - Person of the Year 2006: You.
Time Magazine, Dec. 2006

  • Web 2.0:
- threatening when you believe that an excess of democracy is the road to anarchy
- harnesses both the stupidity as wisdom of crowds
- Impact on (blogging) traditional journalism & (wikipedia ) traditional encyclopedic research:
- most web 2.0 is not challenging the authority of a traditional expert (<-> Keen). It's a working zone where there are no experts, or the users themselves are experts.
- local knowledge used to be mouth-to-mouth, now it has a broadcast channel

Mirko Schaefer - Made by Users
Mar. 2004

  • Collaborative work of users leads to innovation
  • User-driven networks: new communication systems
  • Computer technology -> space for cultural production/reception and a platform for cultural discourse:
- ~ Jenkins on blogging: once a product gets released by a company, a new stage of further development through it's users begins
-> Cultural freedom
  • Collective intelligence (wisdom of the crowd) can be much more productive and innovative than a company's research and development department (<-> Keen)
  • Copyright issues: digital distribution = reproduction

Discussion notes and afterthoughts:

  • Big difference between dilettantes (superficial, passive) & amateurs (love, passion, driven)
  • Early ('pioneer') hackers saw themselves as amateurs
  • Hard to find real collaboration between corporations and user communities (NASA Clickworkers)
  • Why are mainstream media to be considered trustworthy (as opposed to democratized media)?
  • Is there more at stake for mainstream media to be 'correct' because of their position?
  • User-driven communities/development leads to copyright issues: necessary redefinition of copyright laws?
  • Can we compare the contemporary fear of new technology/media with earlier technical/industrial/technological/... revolutions in history?
  • Searching for analogies (the car metaphor) for the personal computer is problematic. Why? We'll go further into that next session.