politics

Would online censorship be effective? Evidence from two research projects proves the opposite

Hi,
you’ve probably reached this blog after listening to my interview with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio Canada’s programme Q. In case you missed it, here’s the podcast:

In this post, you’ll find some background information about my ongoing research on internet censorship – mainly in collaboration with Paola Tubaro (University of Greenwich, UK) and other colleagues. Our focus is on unintended and negative effects of censorship, based on analyses of social media use conducted in the last few years.

In my latest book Les liaisons numériques. Vers une nouvelle sociabilité? [Digital Relationships. Towards a New Sociability?, Paris, Seuil, 2010] I dealt with the topic of pro-ana (short for “pro-anorexia”) and pro-mia (“pro-bulimia”) websites, blogs and forums of persons with eating disorders. The most controversial among them have gone as far as to claim that eating disorders are a choice or a lifestyle, rather than conditions. A grant from the French National Research Agency (ANR) allowed me and my colleagues to lauch ANAMIA, a large-scale study on eating disorder-oriented online communities.

ANAMIA research project – featured on Boing Boing

Since the early 2000s, fears that these websites may induce unhealthy behaviours (possibly in young and adolescent viewers), have prompted many web services to remove them, while some countries have considered outlawing them. Yet eating-disorder related Web communities continue to proliferate. They have migrated to more hidden platforms, barred entry to outsiders, concealed their true nature, and relocated in foreign countries. In a previous post published on Bodyspacesociety blog, I have dubbed this the “toothpaste tube effect“: squeezed from one service, controversial contents re-group elsewhere. Paradoxically, censorship multiplies these websites – if only because of the urge to duplicate contents for backup purposes, in case they have to shut down and move!


Mapping pro-ED websites (France, 2010-2012) – ANAMIA research project

Today, these websites are less open and less visible, though still numerous and densely connected with one another. Thus, they can still influence their users, just as before; but it has become harder for health and nutrition campaigns to locate them and reach out to their users.

Our results indicate that Internet censorship is ineffective and inefficient: it has failed to stop “negative” influences, and has made it more difficult for “positive” influences to operate.

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Et in Athenis ego: update on ongoing research on the body + riots

I know I should be in Lyon for the www12 conference with all the Internet big shots, but instead I’m taking a plane and heading to Greece. The opportunity came via an invitation to deliver a speech at the New Sensorium, an international symposium that will take place on April 20-21 at the BIOS, in Athens. If you are around, you should definitely attend! The conference deals with some of my main research foci (digital technologies, media and the body) and it is the outcome of a collaboration between the Department of Communication, Media and Culture of Panteion University and the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto (I was their guest a few months ago).

http://entopia.org/newsensorium/

The New Sensorium symposium – BIOS, Athens (20-21 April 2012)

Just so you know my speech carries the somewhat cryptic title The Virus and the Avatar. Ways of socializing the sensible in computer culture – and if you don’t have a clue of what it’s about, here are two texts in Greek and in English that might be of help.

But this Athens trip will also be the chance to do more than a bit of field research for our ongoing ICCU (Internet Censorship and Civil Unrest) project. You might remember the project was kickstarted by this blog post about last year’s UK riots.

Our research received a lot of attention and eventually became a working paper, then an article coming up in the Bulletin of Sociological Methodology and started a number of prospective spin-offs in other nations. The Athens one is based on the idea of studying media and internet use during the Greek 2010-12 protests (and the way they are linked with the 2008 riots). Won’t go into details because I don’t want to spoil the party. But, if I manage to grasp a little wifi, I might be blogging a postcard or two from my Athenian fieldwork.

EnemyGraph: blasphème ou ruse de l’amitié sur Facebook ?

On m’a souvent entendu parler d’amitié et d’inimitié dans les réseaux sociaux. De l’amitié à l’heure du numérique, autant dans le chapitre « Mon friend n’est pas mon ami » (v. mon ouvrage Les liaisons numériques, Paris, Seuil, p. 270-277 – que vous trouvez résumées ici) que dans plusieurs interventions publiques  détaillant les tenants et les aboutissants du friending. D’inimitié, plus récemment, dans mon effort de théoriser la conflictualité et les liens négatifs en ligne.

 Donc, quand le toujours admirable @affordanceinfo m’a signalé aujourd’hui le lancement d’EnemyGraph, une nouvelle app qui permet de déclarer des ennemis sur Facebook, j’ai fait un bond de surprise. Créé à la University of Texas par Dean Terry et ses étudiants Bradley Griffith et Harrison Massey, l’application promet de faire le contre-pied de l’ethos de l’amour et de l’amitié forcées de Facebook et de réaliser le rêve longtemps refoulé d’un bouton dislike. Mais comment ça marche ? Selon Terry le tout est basé sur la notion de « dissonance sociale », voire l’évaluation des liens existants entre usagers selon leur désignation de personnes, choses et lieux qui leur déplaisent:

EnemyGraph is an application that allows you to list your “enemies”. Any Facebook friend or user of the app can be an enemy. More importantly, you can also make any page or group on Facebook an “enemy”. This covers almost everything including people, places and things. During our testing testing triangles and q-tips were trending, along with politicians, music groups, and math.
Dean Terry EnemyGraph Facebook Application [visité 26 Mar. 12]

Assange, corporate conspiracies, and Wikileaks ultimate contradictions

Monday, October 24th, 2011. While facing a crowd of journalists and activists gathered at London’s Frontline Club for a momentous Wikileaks press conference, Julian Assange looks nervous. Today he has to deal with the inner contradictions of his political project. No, I’m not talking about the legal consequences of his extradition case. Nor about the ongoing fratricidal struggle with his former associate Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Nor about the very polarized reactions to the whole Cablegate undertaking by the global audiences. I’m talking about this…

Yes, Julian Assange has many reasons to be nervous. After the financial blockade, the leak has been reduced to a tickle. “A handful of US finance companies have successfully blocked 95% of worldwide support for WikiLeaks”. Is there, as he implies, a conspiracy against Wikileaks? That would be ironic, as the very implementation of Wikileaks was supposed to single-handedly put an end to conspiracies (according to this seminal 2006 paper, penned by Assange himself). Well, not about as ironic as this: apparently the only way for Wikileaks to counter Bank of America and Paypal is to become as profitable as they are. Open up to “more wealthy donors”. Provide the general public with projections about donations (and, supposedly, tax deductibility). What’s next? Selling shares to new investors via an IPO? (more…)

Six interesting facts about social networking

A few interesting facts about Social Networking Services (mainly Facebook) taken from the recent report issued on June 16 2011 by PEW Internet and American Life. The report, whose title is Social networking sites and our lives is authored by Keith Hampton, Lauren Sessions Goulet, Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell. Food for thought.

Fact #1: The average age of adult SNS users is now 38.

Sure, as user base increases, the gen Y is ‘caught up’ by gen X-ers, Baby Boomers and the like…

http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Technology-and-social-networks/Summary.aspx

Fact #2: 26% of SNS members are now aged more than 50 (vs. 16% aged 18-22)

Definitely the ‘digital immigrants’ are catching up big time. But this was already clear from the 2009 Generations online Pew Report.

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e-G8 : la conscience d’un internaute, combien ça coûte ?

Sur Mediapart, le guru du numérique Nova Spivak a dénoncé l’effort d’embrigadement du Net opéré par l’administration Sarkozy. Invité au forum e-G8 qui s’est ouvert le 24 mai 2011 à Paris, il a mis en ligne “dans un souci de transparence” les documents qui lui ont été envoyés par la Présidence de la République française : invitation, note de cadrage et agenda des deux jours.

Le même souci de transparence et le même esprit rock’n’roll me poussent, chers lecteurs, à mettre en ligne le contenu complet de la sacoche (en polyester, couleur noire, 35 x 40 cm, Made in China) qui m’a été remise à l’accueil dudit forum.

Photo (c) Cyril Attias via Flickr

A vous d’en tirer les leçons politiques qui s’imposent :

– 1 cahier modèle « William Sheller » (16 x 21 cm) spiralé, 180 pages blanches, avec logo eG8 forum, pour prise de notes – prix unitaire 6,69 € ;

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DSK et la morale institutionnelle du FMI

Qu’est-ce que Dominique Strauss-Kahn et Julian Assange ont un commun (à part leurs cheveux blancs et une certaine allure d’outsiders) ? Tous les deux ont été accusés du même crime odieux.

On a déjà débattu et décortiqué l’affaire Assange. Et nul doute que l’on va faire de même pour DSK. Et bien sûr, au delà de la authenticité des accusations, on ne se lassera pas d’insister ici sur la portée politique de ces scandales sexuels. La question que nous pouvons d’ores et déjà nous poser n’est pas – comme le feraient les théoriciens du complot – à qui profitent ces arrestations (<sarcasme> au tandem politique Obama/Clinton dans le cas d’Assange ? au tandem politique Sarkozy/Le Pen dans le cas de DSK ? </sarcasme>).

Il y a une question qui est à mon avis encore plus essentielle et qui était bien posée dans cet article de Joshua Gamson, paru dans le revue Social Problems : quelle est la portée normative d’un scandale sexuel pour les institutions impliquées ?

Avatar activism and the "survival of the mediated" hypothesis

By now, you’re all way too familiar with the Egyptian Facebook activism. And everybody and his sister has spent the last year-and-a-half discussing how wrong was Malcolm Gladwell in dismissing Moldovan Twitter activism. And millions of you have smiled at Gaddafi’s crazy rant against Tunisian Wikileaks activism. But I’m sure the notion of Avatar activism appeals to a more restricted audience.

In an attempt to fill this gap in your general knowledge, let me point you to a recent article by Mark Deuze.

ResearchBlogging.org
Mark Deuze (2010). Survival of the mediated Journal of Cultural Science, 3 (2)

One interesting part of the essay deals with protestors around the world appropriating the aesthetic codes and themes of James Cameron’s film Avatar. In the Palestinian village of  Bil’in, for instance, activists disguised as blue-skinned Na’vi fight “Israeli imperialism”. The same goes with other community initiatives around the world, such as the Dongria Kondh tribe in eastern India and the Kayapo Indians in the Amazon rainforest.

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