Document (#32444)

Author
Rogers, R.
Title
Information politics on the Web
Imprint
Cambridge, MA : MIT Press
Year
2004
Pages
xi, 200 S
Isbn
0-262-18242-4
Abstract
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.
Footnote
Rez. in: JASIST 58(2007) no.4, S.608-609 (K.D. Desouza): "Richard Rogers explores the distinctiveness of the World Wide Web as a politically contested space where information searchers may encounter multiple explanations of reality. Sources of information on the Web are in constant competition with each other for attention. The attention a source receives will determine its prominence, the ability to be a provider of leading information, and its inclusion in authoritative spaces. Rogers explores the politics behind evaluating sources that are collected and housed on authoritative spaces. Information politics on the Web can be looked at in terms of frontend or back-end politics. Front-end politics is concerned with whether sources on the Web pay attention to principles of inclusivity, fairness, and scope of representation in how information is presented, while back-end politics examines the logic behind how search engines or portals select and index information. Concerning front-end politics, Rogers questions the various versions of reality one can derive from examining information on the Web, especially when issues of information inclusivity and scope of representation are toiled with. In addition, Rogers is concerned with how back-end politics are being controlled by dominant forces of the market (i.e., the more an organization is willing to pay, the greater will be the site's visibility and prominence in authoritative spaces), regardless of whether the information presented on the site justifies such a placement. In the book, Rogers illustrates the issues involved in back-end and front-end politics (though heavily slanted on front-end politics) using vivid cases, all of which are derived from his own research. The main thrust is the exploration of how various "information instruments," defined as "a digital and analytical means of recording (capturing) and subsequently reading indications of states of defined information streams (p. 19)," help capture the politics of the Web. Rogers employs four specific instruments (Lay Decision Support System, Issue Barometer, Web Issue Index of Civil Society, and Election Issue Tracker), which are covered in detail in core chapters of the book (Chapter 2-Chapter 5). The book is comprised of six chapters, with Chapter 1 being the traditional introduction and Chapter 6 being a summary of the major concepts discussed.
Chapter 2 examines the politics of information retrieval in the context of collaborative filtering techniques. Rogers begins by discussing the underpinnings of modern search engine design by examining medieval practices of knowledge seeking, following up with a critique of the collaborative filtering techniques. Rogers's major contention is that collaborative filtering rids us of user idiosyncrasies as search query strings, preferences, and recommendations are shared among users and without much care for the differences among them, both in terms of their innate characteristics and also their search goals. To illustrate Rogers' critiques of collaborative filtering, he describes an information searching experiment that he conducted with students at University of Vienna and University of Amsterdam. Students were asked to search for information on Viagra. As one can imagine, depending on a number of issues, not the least of which is what sources did one extract information from, a student would find different accounts of reality about Viagra, everything from a medical drug to a black-market drug ideal for underground trade. Rogers described how information on the Web differed from official accounts for certain events. The information on the Web served as an alternative reality. Chapter 3 describes the Web as a dynamic debate-mapping tool, a political instrument. Rogers introduces the "Issue Barometer," an information instrument that measures the social pressure on a topic being debated by analyzing data available from the Web. Measures used by the Issue Barometer include temperature of the issue (cold to hot), activity level of the debate (mild to intense), and territorialization (one country to many countries). The Issues Barometer is applied to an illustrative case of the public debate surrounding food safety in the Netherlands in 2001. Chapter 4 introduces "The Web Issue Index," which provides an indication of leading societal issues discussed on the Web. The empirical research on the Web Issues Index was conducted on the Genoa G8 Summit in 1999 and the anti-globalization movement. Rogers focus here was to examine the changing nature of prominent issues over time, i.e., how issues gained and lost attention and traction over time.
In Chapter 5, the "Election Issue Tracker" is introduced. The Election Issue Tracker calculates currency that is defined as "frequency of mentions of the issue terms per newspaper and across newspapers" in the three major national newspapers. The Election Issue Tracker is used to study which issues resonate with the press and which do not. As one would expect, Rogers found that not all issues that are considered important or central to a political party resonate with the press. This book contains a wealth of information that can be accessed by both researcher and practitioner. Even more interesting is the fact that researchers from a wide assortment of disciplines, from political science to information science and even communication studies, will appreciate the research and insights put forth by Rogers. Concepts presented in each chapter are thoroughly described using a wide variety of cases. Albeit all the cases are of a European flavor, mainly Dutch, they are interesting and thought-provoking. I found the descriptions of Rogers various information instruments to be very interesting. Researchers can gain from an examination of these instruments as it points to an interesting method for studying activities and behaviors on the Internet. In addition, each chapter has adequate illustrations and the bibliography is comprehensive. This book will make for an ideal supplementary text for graduate courses in information science, communication and media studies, and even political science. Like all books, however, this book had its share of shortcomings. While I was able to appreciate the content of the book, and certainly commend Rogers for studying an issue of immense significance, I found the book to be very difficult to read and parse through. The book is laden with jargon, political statements, and even has several instances of deficient writing. The book also lacked a sense of structure, and this affected the presentation of Rogers' material. I would have also hoped to see some recommendations by Rogers in terms of how should researchers further the ideas he has put forth. Areas of future research, methods for studying future problems, and even insights on what the future might hold for information politics were not given enough attention in the book; in my opinion, this was a major shortcoming. Overall, I commend Rogers for putting forth a very informative book on the issues of information politics on the Web. Information politics, especially when delivered on the communication technologies such as the Web, is going to play a vital role in our societies for a long time to come. Debates will range from the politics of how information is searched for and displayed on the Web to how the Web is used to manipulate or politicize information to meet the agendas of various entities. Richard Rogers' book will be of the seminal and foundational readings on the topic for any curious minds that want to explore these issues."
Theme
Internet
LCSH
nformation technology / Social aspects
Information technology / Political aspects
Web search engines / Political aspects
Web portals / Political aspects
Civil society
Knowledge, Sociology of
RSWK
Informationstechnik / Politik / Technikbewertung
Informationstechnik / Politik (SWB)
Informationstechnik / Soziologiestudium (SWB)
Politik / Internet (GBV, BVB)
BK
54.08 Informatik in Beziehung zu Mensch und Gesellschaft
DDC
303.48/33 / dc22
LCC
HM851.R65 2004
RVK
AP 18420 Allgemeines / Medien- und Kommunikationswissenschaften, Kommunikationsdesign / Arten des Nachrichtenwesens, Medientechnik / Internet
MF 1000 Politologie / Politische Systeme: einzelne Elemente / Öffentliche Meinung (politische Kommunikation)
ST 205

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