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Abstracts

Radical Transparency: Friend or Foe of Representative Democracy?

Andrew Keen

I will argue today's cult of transparency – which is now driving the social media revolution of Twitter, Facebook and WikiLeaks – is actually weakening rather than strengthening representative democracy. Rather than a solution to the crisis of democracy in the west, I will argue that our fetish with transparency and openness is actually promoting the rise of anonymous ochlocracies on the right and the left. A viable representative democracy, I will suggest, depends as much on secrecy, murkiness and lies as on openness, transparency and the telling of truths.

 

Stop Searching, Start Questioning! – Report on Critical Google Research

Geert Lovink

With Nicholas Carr's The Shallows we have a widnessed a 'neurological turn' in internet criticsm. Multitasking and searching are apparently changing our brains. But what are the cultural implications of of our obsesion with search? In this lecture I will report about various efforts throughout Europe, from political economy to history and aesthetics, to get a critical understanding of the 'googlization' of society. How can academic research speed up and a play a more important role in the vital debates on the future of our media landscape? If search undermines our capacity to read longer, comprehensive texts, then how should education respond to growing dependency of Google?

 

The Google Generation – A Dumbed Down, Fast Information Generation?

David Nicholas

The virtual revolution is in full swing and it is transforming many aspects of our lives: the ways in which we socialise, shop, entertain ourselves, obtain knowledge and information, manage our health, and interact with public services, have all undergone profound change. These transformations have taken place in a remarkably short period of time, leading many to wonder how today’s children and teenagers, the `Google Generation’, who have little or no recollection of a life before broadband, mobile technologies and ubiquitous search (Google) will cope. The big question that fascinates (or worries) everyone - parents, teachers, lecturers and employers, is whether this generation, when they hit university and the workplace, will turn out to be fundamentally different from older generations in their information seeking and reading behaviour and even in the way they `think’ – their brains are being 'rewired'. If this indeed turns out to be the case then existing institutions are going to have to undergo fundamental change or face marginalization. CIBER research in understanding how the Google Generation behaves in the virtual environment was featured on the BBC’s virtual revolution television series this year and this research will be the subject of the paper.

 

Crime Scene Internet – A Challenge for Politics, Education, and Upbringing

Catarina Katzer

The many positive effects of the global information superhighway – the "internet" – must not close our eyes to the dangers that lurk in the virtual world. For the internet also offers new arenas for aggressive behaviour such as bullying and psychological intimidation, and crimes such as fraud, extortion, theft, sexual violence, child pornography, and much more. Here we can clearly see that the World Wide Web also has a dark side. The linking up of different forms of technological equipment, such as various forms of internet communication (chat rooms, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, video platforms like Youtube and Clipfish, blogs, etc.) and cell phone technology with photo and video capacities allow new phenomena such as happy slapping, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, and cybercrime to develop, and make carrying out these activities remarkably simple. Within a few seconds, verbal insults, rumours, photos or film clips that show rapes or classmates in embarrassing situations can be made accessible to hundreds of thousands of people via chat rooms, social networks, or video portals. The situation of the victim here is a new one: the victimisation is public and cannot simply be deleted from the web, i.e., it is endless. Given that the internet is used daily by a very young audience and that the significance of online life for these young users is constantly increasing, we should cast a critical eye at the future use of the internet both as an educational medium and as a medium for socialisation, e.g., with regard to the ethical consequences of conveying the norms and values of our society on the internet, or with regard to the transformations of the culpritvictim situation through the committing of crimes online. Parents, teachers, and politicians have a hard task ahead of them, and the question must be asked: What are the new challenges that the medium of the internet poses to the realms of upbringing, education, and politics? For it is not only educational systems that have to adapt to these new circumstances, but also the judicial and legal systems, and the executive and legislative branches of government.

 

#iranelection: The Revolution Will Not Be Twittered!

Kuros Yalpani

The protests immediately following the June 2009 Iranian presidential elections, focused international attention onto the unfolding events largely – as it was claimed by the media- fed by protesters applying digital social networking platforms such as Twitter. However, data collected in several studies since, suggest that digital social networking platforms played only a minor role, if any. The dynamic of the protests was largely a product of significant disenchantment of a large segment of the population with government policies and the universal trends that pit (post)-modernists against traditional forces. Paradoxically, the protests were sustained precisely because they did not rely on (a particular) technology as means to propagate. This talk gives a brief background on the use of cyberspace in the context of Iranian politics and explains why its role to organize, is only minor.

 

Internet Censorship in China and the Role of the Internet in Promoting Democracy

Joseph Cheng

The Chinese authorities have been exercising very strict control over the Internet; and this control has been strengthening in line with the expansion of netizens in China. In terms of a regulatory system, it vertically links the central government to the basic-level local governments, and horizontally involves many government agencies. They will increasingly rely on industry-wide self-discipline in their control of the Internet in the future. Despite these strict controls, the fact remains that the Internet and internet public opinion have become part of the life of Chinese people, which will continue to expand the scope of freedom of speech and promote social change. It is expected that the Internet will facilitate greater public participation.

 

Masscreativity Online

David Rowan

The creative revolution of the masses: The internet is steadily eradicating institutions that stand in the way of human creativity. From collaborative filmmaking to microlending, online networks are proving that strangers can trust each other and work together for the greater public good. This is cause for optimism and for wider public participation – so what are you waiting for?

 

Cybersecurity - An International Task: When Big Brother Meets Lord of the Flies

Prof. Dr. Richard Harknett

In the early 21st century, counterintuitively, we find ourselves with a digital infrastructure, whose form is exactly what the original goals of network computing sought to avoid. The core elements of cyberspace – digital technology and user interface – have combined to produce an environment of systemic single-point vulnerabilities. This technological evolution threatens global conditions, because the capacity to do great harm can now be held by the few. In industrial and preindustrial societies, great effort was needed to develop the capacity to do great sustained harm; thus, the territorial state became the most capable actor globally because it could marshal the technology of the day through its state structures to produce massive standing armies and arms. In the late 20th century, this state infrastructure culminated with the development of weapons of mass destruction. The digital age has shattered this relationship. One no longer needs a massive state structure to produce a capacity for sustained great harm. Thus, the world is faced with the prospect of now having to be aware of the “few” – those so disaffected that they have no self-deterring concern for maintaining the current system. This presentation will offer a matrix of conceptual frames on the relationship between digital technology, state power, and the individual in society and how international efforts should respond to the challenge of securing cyberspace.

 

 

Social Networks and Their Effect on the Offline World

Prof. Dr. Reima Suomi (Finland)

People have always formed social networks, but Internet and other new media have made their initialization and joining and participating in social networks easier than ever before, independent of time and place.  In social networks, even the shy and somehow disabled in communication can have an equal role as others. Social networks in the Internet have an enormous effect on the happenings in the real world outside the communication networks and platforms also. Joint social meanings and decisions, including decisions to use money, are effectively, fast and often in a surprising way done on the Internet.  A big error would also be to think that social networks on the Internet are controllable: on the contrary, they formulate their own activities and processes, and controlling them is next to impossible. No part of the society can ignore the potentials and threats of the social networks formulated in the Internet. Political and democratic processes can be improved through social networks, and many services the public sector is currently providing can be at least partly substituted with peer-to-peer services on the net. The same holds true for commercial services: some get substituted by activities on social networks, some get new boost through them.

 

 

Jihadis Try to Make Friends on Facebook

Mina Al-Lami (Iraq/Great Britian)

Social networking has been revolutionary in connecting people, communicating information, and mobilising publics. One only has to look at the recent and current events in the Arab world, where websites like Facebook and Twitter having been playing a crucial role organising protests, to realise their potential. The global reach and attraction of such platforms haven’t escaped the attention of jihadists, who are forever looking for new ways to spread their ideo-logy and win over fresh recruits. Given the constant attacks on and closures of jihadists fora, jihadists started looking for platforms that cannot be closed while offering a wider range of audience. Facebook seemed to offer such an opportunity. Jihadists have so far had two major, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Facebook groups, both of which were closed down by the site following alerts from media and governments. Realising their mistake, “having a single group that could be closed with a single click”, jihadists decided to change their “Facebook invasion” strategy. Have the media and recent US Homeland Security reports exaggerated the threat of Al-Qaeda on Facebook, or should we be worried? What are the advantages and disadvantages Facebook offers jihadists and what are the implications of having active jihadist cells on the famous social networking site?