Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Theorising Digital Society: Symposium

Panel Discussion: Evelyn Honeywill, Nicola Johnson and myself. Chaired by Deborah Lupton
I attended a symposium convened by Deborah Lupton, Theorizing Digital Society, on Monday held at the University of Canberra. The twitter hashtag was #TDS15 for those who'd like to engage in the conversation around the symposium. Here is a collection of the tweets so far. There were a number of very interesting talks presented on the day. I particularly enjoyed the opening keynote speech by Susan Halford on the continuing importance of social theory in the world of big data and web science.  Evelyn Honeywill's paper on network character and broader psycho-social dynamics of  social media and Jean Burgess and Ariadna Matamoro's paper on issue-networks and mapping techniques applied to the #gamergate controversy were also highlights for me.  My paper applied Legitimation Code Theory to  the knowledge practices of climate sceptics bloggers and their framing of the 'climategate' controversy.  The presentation deviated from the abstract in one key respect, I decided that it would be more fruitful to apply the theoretical tools to a small preliminary case study than merely arguing from the existing literature for their efficacy.  Here is the title and abstract in any case: 

Title: Theorizing Digital Social Networksand the Problem of Knowledge-Blindness: The Case of the Climate ScepticBlogosphere.

Abstract: Rogers and Marres (2000) saw the World Wide Web as an important site for the discussion of science and technology.  Networks of issue based websites were argued to constitute socio-epistemic networks. Linking patterns between sites on climate change indicated a politics of association and a hierarchy of credibility.  Sites with the URL extension .org linked up the hierarchy to .gov; but .gov did not engage in reciprocal linking practices. Replicating the traditional hierarchy of credibility between official and non-official sources of information.  Recent events have demonstrated the ability of digital social networks to disrupt traditional hierarchies of credibility.  In 2009 emails stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit were published on four climate scepticism blogs and lead to a public controversy that strengthened the counter-movement against action on climate change.  The role of blogs in the ‘climategate’ controversy spurred the growth of literature concerned with the dynamics of climate scepticism on digital social networks.  This paper examines this emerging literature and identifies the need to combine social network theory and conceptualizations of knowledge practice to better understand counter-movements and the disruption of traditional hierarchies of credibility on digital social networks.


Rogers, R. and N. Marres (2000). "Landscaping Climate Change: A Mapping Technique for Understanding Science and Technology Debates on the World Wide Web." Public Understanding of Science 9(2): 141-163.

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