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Richard Rogers

Richard Rogers is University Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam, and the author of Information Politics on the Web (MIT Press). He is Director of the Govcom.org Foundation (Amsterdam) and the Digital Methods Initiative.

Titles by This Author

In Digital Methods, Richard Rogers proposes a methodological outlook for social and cultural scholarly research on the Web that seeks to move Internet research beyond the study of online culture. It is not a toolkit for Internet research, or operating instructions for a software package; it deals with broader questions. How can we study social media to learn something about society rather than about social media use? How can hyperlinks reveal not just the value of a Web site but the politics of association? Rogers proposes repurposing Web-native techniques for research into cultural change and societal conditions. We can learn to reapply such “methods of the medium” as crawling and crowd sourcing, PageRank and similar algorithms, tag clouds and other visualizations; we can learn how they handle hits, likes, tags, date stamps, and other Web-native objects. By “thinking along” with devices and the objects they handle, digital research methods can follow the evolving methods of the medium.

Rogers uses this new methodological outlook to examine the findings of inquiries into 9/11 search results, the recognition of climate change skeptics by climate-change-related Web sites, the events surrounding the Srebrenica massacre according to Dutch, Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian Wikipedias, presidential candidates’ social media “friends,” and the censorship of the Iranian Web. With Digital Methods, Rogers introduces a new vision and method for Internet research and at the same time applies them to the Web’s objects of study, from tiny particles (hyperlinks) to large masses (social media).

Does the information on the Web offer many alternative accounts of reality, or does it subtly align with an official version? In Information Politics on the Web, Richard Rogers identifies the cultures, techniques, and devices that rank and recommend information on the Web, analyzing not only the political content of Web sites but the politics built into the Web's infrastructure. Addressing the larger question of what the Web is for, Rogers argues that the Web is still the best arena for unsettling the official and challenging the familiar.Rogers describes the politics at work on the Web as either back-end—the politics of search engine technology—or front-end&mash;the diversity, inclusivity, and relative prominence of sites publicly accessible on the Web. To analyze this, he developed four "political instruments," or software tools that gather information about the Web by capturing dynamic linking practices, attention cycles for issues, and changing political party commitments. On the basis of his findings on how information politics works, Rogers argues that the Web should be, and can be, a "collision space" for official and unofficial accounts of reality. (One chapter, "The Viagra Files" offers an entertaining analysis of official and unofficial claims for the health benefits of Viagra.) The distinctiveness of the Web as a medium lies partly in the peculiar practices that grant different statuses to information sources. The tools developed by Rogers capture these practices and contribute to the development of a new information politics that takes into account and draws from the competition between the official, the non-governmental, and the underground.