Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Censored Web
As a singular node a webpage can be very powerful. The webmaster has complete control over what are the topics of discussion and what is or isn't acceptable content. So when taken individually webpages can be surprisingly closed and coercive (see, and attempt to comment on Sarah Palin's Facebook Page). There are also other possible effects of peer pressure and social manipulation by the "validated" membership.
To my mind a member is considered "validated" if he is a regular contributor and is held is good standing by users of the web site. Also, perhaps more importantly, some who is "validated" must pass muster with the webmaster or moderator. The final step is of course the users registration with the website. This voluntary relinquishment of personal data will result in the granting of an avatar by the webmaster.
Many of you might think that this is a small, innocuous, and possible onerous point. I am in fact arguing a point of custom, but this line of questioning isn't without reason. The data use and membership policies of Facebook have been in the news at numerous intervals throughout the site's meteoric rise. And that simple little diagram above has earned Zuckerberg a fortune.
Of course there is more at work here, there isn't just one webpage or a single webmaster. Rather there is an entire "ecosystem" as characterized by Zeynep Tufekci and others. This is perhaps the largest redeeming factor of the singular webpage's censor, there is no such thing as a single webpage.
Indeed the culture of the internet contains a certain amount of diversity. But that diversity is limited to either those who can afford to overcome the monetary barriers to entry or those who are can organize offline, this means that the internet reinforces the predilections of either those with money or those with lots of friends or associates close by: that is cities and "local" crowds. Thus, if you're neither, you're nothing.
This brings us full circle to the "property vs communication" issue. Who owns what you say? let's ask the censor.