Information Politics on the Web
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—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.
About the Author
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.
"If you have ever been horrified by the nonsense floating around on the Web, or stunned by the hype of those who claim that e-politics will soon replace real politics, then this book is for you. Finally, someone investigates the Web's ability to express, replace, renew, and disrupt the age-old tools of political expression. Richard Rogers's Web mapping experiments form a great inquiry into the practices of political science."
—Bruno Latour, Ecole des Mines, Paris
"Rogers presents a profoundly different way of thinking about information in cyberspace, one that supports the political efforts of democratic activists and NGOs and takes seriously the epistemological issues at the heart of networked communications. His approach is light-years ahead of other research: Not only are the four political instruments he has developed for analyzing the Web innovative, but the set of theoretical assumptions underlying them breaks new ground. He rejects the tired and banal focus on fandom, porn, and aliens that took cyber-theory into a cultural and political wasteland. His Web is instead a serious, dynamic site of political struggle."
—Jodi Dean, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, author of Publicity's Secret: How Technoculture Capitalizes on Democracy
"A brilliant deciphering of informational politics. Rogers shows us how the Web can be a site for both officialdom and its unsettling. He also proposes a Web epistemology based on the ways in which Web dynamics can function as embedded adjudication cultures, and thus assess the trustworthiness of information sources."
—Saskia Sassen, University of Chicago, author of Globalization and Its Discontents