[globaloutlookDH-l] "Who Owns the Internet?"

Ernesto Priego efpriego at gmail.com
Thu Aug 24 05:46:31 MDT 2017


Hi Alex, all,

As I explained in my email the connection started from the headline (in the
permalink too): "who owns the Internet?". That was verbatim one of the
questions we discussed at length in Rome.

It is an important question. It is important to take it literally and
figuratively. We can be talking about the actual submarine cables
connecting network infrastructures around the world, or we can be talking,
for example as in this article, about the dominance of specific Web
companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook (I am sending this message
via my Gmail account, which is connected to my Humanities Commons profile,
which is connected to my Google Drive, which hosts Google docs where I have
work in collaboration with colleagues around the world, and datasets, and
students courseworks, which is connected to my YouTube profile, and my
Picasa pictures, and, and).

"Thirty years ago, almost no one used the Internet for anything. Today,
> just about everybody uses it for everything. Even as the Web has grown,
> however, it has narrowed. Google now controls nearly ninety per cent of
> search advertising, Facebook almost eighty per cent of mobile social
> traffic, and Amazon about seventy-five per cent of e-book sales. Such
> dominance, Jonathan Taplin argues, in “Move Fast and Break Things: How
> Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy”
> (Little, Brown), is essentially monopolistic. In his account, the new
> monopolies are even more powerful than the old ones, which tended to be
> limited to a single product or service. Carnegie, Taplin suggests, would
> have been envious of the reach of Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos."
>


I think the whole article should be interesting to those in digital
humanities, regardless of their interest in American politics, because it
deals with two recent books that are tackling the issue of how Web/digital
technologies are shaping culture. There are important parallels to be made,
for example, between the monopolistic practices of Amazon, Facebook or
Google and the practices of for example Elsevier, or ProQuest:

"Thirty years ago, almost no one used the Internet for anything. Today,
> just about everybody uses it for everything. Even as the Web has grown,
> however, it has narrowed. Google now controls nearly ninety per cent of
> search advertising, Facebook almost eighty per cent of mobile social
> traffic, and Amazon about seventy-five per cent of e-book sales. Such
> dominance, Jonathan Taplin argues, in “Move Fast and Break Things: How
> Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy”
> (Little, Brown), is essentially monopolistic. In his account, the new
> monopolies are even more powerful than the old ones, which tended to be
> limited to a single product or service. Carnegie, Taplin suggests, would
> have been envious of the reach of Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos."
>


The pasages referring to piracy, IP and paywalls are also interesting. We
can easily replace 'Google' for any other mainstream for-profit academic
publisher in the following quote to get an insight into why academic piracy
(including illegal self-archiving of academic manuscripts in ResearchGate,
Academia and university servers, against academic journals' policies) is
not really a major concern for those for-profit academic publishers,
because they already profit through other means:

"Google itself doesn’t pirate music; it doesn’t have to. It’s selling the
> traffic—and, just as significant, the data about the traffic. Like the Koch
> brothers, Taplin observes, Google is “in the extraction industry.” Its
> business model is “to extract as much personal data from as many people in
> the world at the lowest possible price and to resell that data to as many
> companies as possible at the highest possible price.” And so Google profits
> from just about everything: cat videos, beheadings, alt-right rants, the
> Band performing “The Weight” at Woodstock, in 1969."
>


This is precisely the situation in academic publishing too, where the
business model, as in Academia.edu, remains to extract as much personal
data from as many academics as possible and to resell that data. The
academic work is just the bait, or the fodder. Whenever 'DHers' take
decisions regarding platforms, it is important there is an awareness that,
today, academic content is as significant as its traffic, and the data as
significant as the metadata, etc. More importantly, at least for us trying
to think the implications of technocultural dominance, are the
epistemological implications: beyond the now-commonplace assertion that
technology is never neutral, how can the digital humanities address the
epistemological dominance of the North as expressed by the dominance of a
bunch of corporations, which determines indeed the information the world
has access to and is able to produce and distribute?

Anyway, this was meant to be just a quick answer, so there are lots of
nuances to address, etc. This message was not meant to be a journal
article... ;)

All the best

Ernesto


Dr Ernesto Priego

@ernestopriego
https://epriego.wordpress.com/
http://www.comicsgrid.com/
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On 23 August 2017 at 21:07, Alex Gil <colibri.alex at gmail.com> wrote:

> Thank you for sharing, Ernesto. Took me to unexpected places.
>
> How did you end up connecting it to the Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades
> Digitales del Sur project?
>
> Best from NYC,
> a.
>
> On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 3:52 AM, Ernesto Priego <efpriego at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
>> Hi all,
>>
>> The question in the subject line was a question posed to us at the end of
>> the panel we had on "opening the digital humanities" last April in Roma Tre
>> University (event organised by Domenico Fiormonte).
>>
>> It is also the headline with which The New Yorker shares online this
>> artcle, which discusses two recent books on American tech giants:
>>
>> https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/28/who-owns-the-internet/
>>
>> I thought I'd share the link here with you all as it continues
>> discussions we have had in the Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Digitales
>> del Sur project.
>>
>> All the best,
>>
>> Ernesto
>>
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