A Cultural and Political Economy of Web 2.0

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A Cultural and Political Economy of Web 2.0 is a 2010 doctoral thesis written in English by Robert W. Gehl.

[edit] Abstract

In this dissertation, I explore Web 2.0, an umbrella term for Web-based software and services such as blogs, wikis, social networking, and media sharing sites. This range of Web sites is complex, but is tied together by one key feature: the users of these sites and services are expected to produce the content included in them. That is, users write and comment upon blogs, produce the material in wikis, make connections with one another in social networks, and produce videos in media sharing sites. This has two implications. First, the increase of user-led media production has led to proclamations that mass media, hierarchy, and authority are dead, and that we are entering into a time of democratic media production. Second, this mode of media production relies on users to supply what was traditionally paid labor. To illuminate this, I explore the popular media discourses which have defined Web 2.0 as a progressive, democratic development in media production. I consider the pleasures that users derive from these sites. I then examine the technical structure of Web 2.0. Despite the arguments that present Web 2.0 as a mass appropriation of the means of media production, I have found that Web 2.0 site owners have been able to exploit users' desires to create content and control media production. Site owners do this by deploying a dichotomous structure. In a typical Web 2.0 site, there is a surface, where users are free to produce content and make affective connections, and there is a hidden depth, where new media capitalists convert user-generated content into exchange-values. Web 2.0 sites seek to hide exploitation of free user labor by limiting access to this depth. This dichotomous structure is made clearer if it is compared to the one Web 2.0 site where users have largely taken control of the products of their labor: Wikipedia. Unlike many other sites, Wikipedia allows users to see into and determine the legal, technical, and cultural depths of that site. I conclude by pointing to the different cultural formations made possible by eliminating the barrier between surface and depth in Web software architecture.

[edit] References

This publication has 13 references. Only those references related to wikis are included here:

  • "Wikipedia and academic peer review; Wikipedia as a recognised medium for scholarly publication?" (create it!) [search]
  • "Becoming Wikipedian: transformation of participation in a collaborative online encyclopedia" (create it!) [search]
  • "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture" (create it!) [search]
  • "Power of the few vs. wisdom of the crowd: Wikipedia and the rise of the bougeoisie" (create it!) [search]

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