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

Domenico Fiormonte domenico.fiormonte at gmail.com
Thu Aug 24 06:42:40 MDT 2017


Thanks to Ernesto for remembering our discussion in Rome. The  dominance of
the so-called "Frightful Five" (
http://infolet.it/2016/10/12/controllare-internet-in-6-mosse/) represents a
serious threat to the cultural and linguistic diversity of the globe. Those
services, tools, and applications are the real global designers of digital
knowledge -- probably the only 'knowledge' we will access in the future.
It has always been a surprise for me to see how digital humanists tend to
neglect this point. We build archives and software with open access
languages and tools, but how they will be found and accessed? In the end,
Google and Facebook rule.

I'd recommend reading Anita Chan's "Networking peripheries".

I've an article coming out in DS/LCN on the geopolitics of digital
knowledge that will partially address these issues.
Paula Ricaurte has also published an interesting blog entry on this:

http://dayofdh2014.matrix.msu.edu/redhd/2014/04/09/geopolitics-of-knowledge-and-digital-humanities/

Saluti

Domenico

2017-08-24 13:46 GMT+02:00 Ernesto Priego <efpriego a gmail.com>:

> 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/
> Subscribe to the Comics Grid Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/iOYAj
>
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>
> On 23 August 2017 at 21:07, Alex Gil <colibri.alex a 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 a 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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