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Internet Turning 40 2010

The Internet Turning 40 conference, Hong Kong, 17-19 June 2010.

Fansubbing in China as a Form of Produsage

Hong Kong.
The final speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Donna Chu, who highlights the different forms of content creation which are emerging in Web 2.0 environments as the nature of production and consumption is shifting. Does this mean that users are empowered or exploited in this environment? What forms of civic participation are possible here?

Some of these questions are not new, but continue similar discussions in the area of fandom - fans have been creating content for a very long time, and have now simply moved online to share that content. Fans mobilise in support for discontinued TV shows, create petitions to save characters which are to be dumped from TV shows, etc. TV fans who participate in this way, though, are also contributing free labour to these TV shows, and could be seen as being exploited.

Taiwanese Students' Attitudes towards the Net

Hong Kong.
The next speaker in this session of The Internet Turning 40 is Chien Chou, whose interest is in exploring the use of the Net by Taiwanese students. Students start working with computers in school from the age of 9, and 100% of schools have Internet access, 78% of homes do, as well. But what uses do they see for the Net? She introduces a sixfold distinction: tool, toy, telephone, territory (e.g. presenting their personal identity in a blog, and joining communities), trade, and treasure of information.

Interpreting the Development of Twitter

Hong Kong.
We're starting the last day of The Internet Turning 40 with the session that I'm in as well - but the first speaker is José van Dijck, who introduces the idea of 'interpretive flexibility' - an approach for examining technologies that remain in flux. Why and how do technologies become dominant over time; how can we trace this process while it is happening; and why is it important to do so? She is applying this specifically to Twitter (and microblogging in general) here.

There are four factors here: technologies and services, mediated social practices, cultural form and content, and business models. All of these are important when examining emerging platforms, of course. Microblogging, José says, is both a tool and a service - and its versatility is crucial to its success. When it was launched, it was unclear what it would become; by 2007, it was adopted and integrated by a large number of other social media platform, and in the process adapted its interface and technological specificities to their needs (but this took place the other way around, too). Since then, there has been an 'appliancisation' of Twitter, turning it into a closed, applied platform, and reducing its versatility and openness.

Hong Kong Protest Movements and the Internet

Hong Kong.
Finally, we move on to Francis Lee as the last speaker on this second day of The Internet Turning 40. He notes that a few weeks ago, some 150,000 people commemorated the Tian An Men massacre in Hong Kong, and other public rallies are now also becoming commonplace - more and more people are now prepared to participate in such demonstrations. Mainstream media, interpersonal connections, and online media are combining to enable such activities; Hong Kong is becoming 'a proper society'.

What role does the Internet play in this, then? The Internet is used as a means of coordination and mobilisation, as a means of facilitating the formation of movement networks, as a platform for collective or individualised protest actions, and as a channel for persuasive messages and information. For social movements in the online information environment, the Net can be considered as an alternative medium, enabling them to bypass the mass media and transmit oppositional views; also, compared to conventional media, people are less likely to be exposed to discordant views and messages, and a form of self-reinforcing groupthink can develop, particularly with the move towards Web 2.0. This facilitates a heightened audience selectivity.

The Victory of Chinese Netizens over the Green Dam Filter

Hong Kong.
We move on to Hu Yong as the next speaker at The Internet Turning 40, who highlights the anti-Green Dam movement in China which opposes Internet censorship. In June 2009, the Chinese government introduced regulation that from 1 July that year, it required each new computer to have the 'Green Dam Youth Escort' filtering software pre-installed, which would filter specific 'unhealthy' - pornographic - Websites and information (previously it had been thought that this software was only required for school computers).

Rumour Transmission through Social Networking

Hong Kong.
The next speaker at The Internet Turning 40 is Yuqiong Zhou, whose interest is in how rumours are transmitted on the Internet - in this case, through the Chinese messaging service QQ. Rumour transmission is driven by personal anxiety and social disorder, and propelled by people's belief in the rumours; this transmission, in turn, further deepens their belief in rumours. Rumours are unverified but broadly circulated information items which yield from people's discussion and constitute a kind of abnormal public opinion.

Testing the Boundaries of Singaporean Governance through Civil Disobedience

Hong Kong.
The first speaker in the post-lunch session this second day of The Internet Turning 40 is Cherian George, who begins with the story of a Singaporean dissident, the former lawyer Gopalan Nair, who has been a staunch (even rabid, Cherian says) critic of Lee Kuan Yew and his - or now, his son's - government. In a blog post, Nair has openly acknowledged the fact that he has defamed Lee, gave his full address and contact details, and dared the police to arrest him - which they did. He was quite literally asking for trouble.

The Global Financial Crisis as Opportunity for Resistance

Hong Kong.
The final speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Jack Qiu, who highlights the impact of the current financial crisis (in a study focussing on China and South Korea) and begins by playing a melody originally created to commemorate the Kwangju massacre in Korea which has now been repurposed as a kind of pan-Asian "Internationale" (and was performed in this version by the New Labour Art Troupe, a migrant workers orchestra in China which has released three CDs so far and also published its music online under a Creative Commons licence).

Displacement and Complementarity in the Slipstream

Hong Kong.
The second speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Sharon Strover, who also highlights the amount of personal information which is being shared as a matter of course by many Internet users - at its extreme, by 'life streamers' who deliberately enmesh the virtual and the real and publicise as much of their everyday activities as is humanly and technologically possible.

She suggests that in our understanding of the Internet, techno-centric approaches continue to dominate, even in spite of the push to understand technologies as socially shaped - and she suggests a new metaphor, the slipstream, in which one object is travelling in the wake of another, expending relatively little energy (and indeed, in doing so reduces the aerodynamic drag on the leading object, allowing it, too, to move faster). The Internet slipstream underscores the possibility of a seamless communicative self, located simultaneously in multiple communication environments - it highlights the nimbleness of multiple communicative activities.


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