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Does e-Participation Generate More Positive Attitudes towards Democracy?

The second speaker in this ECREA 2016 speakers are Dennis Friess and Pablo Porten Cheé, who shift our attention to e-participation tools and platforms. They begin by noting that there is a democratic crisis which manifests itself in growing scepticism about representative policy-making. One response to this is a call for more opportunities for citizen participation, especially also through online platforms; but does such e-participation lead to more positive attitudes towards democratic processes?

Platform Power in Turbulent Times

The second keynote speaker at ECREA 2016 today is Rasmus Kleis Nielsen from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. He begins by noting the rise of platforms such as Google and Facebook as new digital intermediaries: these major global companies enable interactions between at least two different kinds of actors, host public information, organise access to it, and give rise to new information formats, and influence incentive structures around investment in public communication (including journalism).

Foregrounding the Implications of Technological Obsolescence through Ecomedia

There is another double-barrelled ECREA 2016 keynote session today, and it starts with Joanna Zylinska, whose interest is in technical obsolescence in media history. Media forms and devices emerge and decline again over time; Joanna is interested in a kind of shallow media geology that explores the various media pasts and futures at local, national, and global levels. This enables an exploration of the dynamics of the contemporary media ecology. In part this is also about the planned media obsolescence that is now designed into many devices.

The Impact of Commenting Systems on Civility

After a swinging party last night, we are now starting the final day of AoIR 2016. This begins with a paper by Alfred Moore, Rolf Fredheim, and John Naughton, whose focus is on online commenting practices. More and more people are getting their news online, and especially through social media; this has been creating anxieties about how people are getting their information, but the dimension of online commenting has been less thematised in this context. The structure of commenting architectures has an important role to play here.

Who Does Rule the Internet, Then?

Tonight is the night of the AoIR 2016 public plenary, and while it's a panel discussion which I won't blog we are going to start with a few short statements from the panellists. We begin with Kate Crawford, who notes the contribution of so many AoIRists to our understanding of the Internet as more than a utopian cyberspace, and instead as a complex stack of network protocol, platform, infrastructural, connectivity, Internet of Things, and other Internet governance layers.

But we have a new problem: more and more artificial intelligence backend systems are being deployed now to ingest and process the data that we constantly generate. These are also moving beyond what we have traditionally called 'the Internet', operating in a wide range of institutions and influencing our perceptions of the world around us. The processes are not particularly intelligent, after all; the famous image of a naked girl fleeing napalm bombings in the Vietnam war was recently censored by Facebook, for instance, and while this image was reinstated this is only the tip of the iceberg of the many arbitrary and opaque decisions that are being made by such algorithms. But the decisions being made by humans are not necessarily all that better – there is overall an irrational confidence in the calculability of reality.

Accountability in Digital Humanitarianism

The final paper in this AoIR 2016 session is Mirca Madianou, who begins with a clip promoting the "I Sea" app that purports to take a crowdsourcing approach to scanning satellite images for migrant boats in the Mediterranean in order to spot and help boats in distress. However, that app was a scam; it showed static satellite images rather than live feeds.

Towards the Platform Society

After an exciting workshop day, we're now starting AoIR 2016 proper with the opening keynote by José van Dijck from the University of Amsterdam. She begins by noting the work of Tarleton Gillespie on the politics of online platforms, which has been very influential in Internet studies in recent years. Internet platforms are now intricately interwoven in a technical, commercial, and social ecosystem, with a number of leading platforms serving as the major gateways to that ecosystem.

But new platforms are constantly emerging, to systematically connect people to things, ideas, and money. These platforms penetrate all aspects of our public and private lives; in any major area these platforms are important gateways to information and connectivity. A platform in this context is an online site that deploys automated technologies and business models to organise data streams, economic interactions, and social exchanges between users of the Internet, José suggests. They are therefore not simple facilitators, or stand-alone objects, but are intricately connected to each other.

Situating Digital Methods

Our Digital Methods pre-conference workshop at AoIR 2016, combining presenters from the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam and the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology starts with a presentation by Richard Rogers on the recent history of digital methods. He points out the gradual transition from a conceptualisation of the Internet and the Web as cyberspace or as a virtual space to an understanding of the Web as inherently linked with the 'real' world: online rather than offline becomes the baseline, and there is an increasing sense of online groundedness.

Social Media and Their Consequences

The final speaker in this Social Media and Society session is William Housley, whose interest is in the role of social media as disruptive technologies: they affect how we organise ourselves in our social relations, and how these social relations are captured through big data on social media activities. This has a strong temporal dimension, recognising the dynamics of change over time.

Contradictions in U.K. and European eID Regulations

The next session at Web Science 2016 begins with Niko Tsakalakis, whose focus is on electronic identity. eIDs are a set of identifiers that set us apart from other people, and these can take a number of forms from software to hardware identifiers and biometric data. Such eIDs are now enshrined in a number of regulations at national levels, and also enable cross-border transactions across Europe.

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