Congratulations to Oxford Internet Institute (OII) for its 10th anniversary, and for organizing an excellent symposium, A Decade in Internet Time.
In addition to marking OII’s anniversary, the symposium provided a stimulating setting for discussing past, present, and potential future aspects of information and communication technologies and their societal impact. The symposium featured keynotes by Lisa Nakamura, Manuel Castells, Eszter Hargittai, Christine Borgman, Laura de Nardis, and others, and highlighted themes such as copyright and open content; e-research; digital inclusion and inequalities; cultures and identities online; the role of ICTs in the Arab Spring, UK riots and the WikiLeaks case; collective action online; production of virtual knowledge (here is the full program).
My symposium participation included two panels and two presentations. I organized a panel that focused on one of the fundamental and longest-standing themes in Internet research—trust. Conceptualizing Trust in Digital Environments panel opened with Laura Gurak’s talk Trust as foundational: from cave paintings to digital discourse, which looked at sociological perspectives on trust, specifically in relation to Internet research. We then turned to two cases of configuring trust in digital environments. Anna Harris, Sally Wyatt, and Susan Kelly presented a study Health e-skepticism? Trust in the age of the Internet, which drew on their ongoing research about online direct-to-consumer psychiatric genetic testing, and examined the ways in which digital technologies reconfigure trust relationships between people, their bodies, their care-givers, codified and experiential knowledge, and the techno-bureaucratic systems which shape these relationships. My study, Trusting the Digital: The case of cultural heritage, focused on increasing use of ICTs in the cultural heritage sector, examining trust with regard to representational validity of digitized and born digital artifacts; participatory knowledge production; provenance of digital materials, and; epistemological soundness of computational research methods and tools. Finally, in the paper Age and Trust in the Internet: The Centrality of Experience and Attitudes Toward Technology in Britain, Grant Blank and William Dutton analyzed changes in user’s trust on the Internet in Britain between 2003 and 2009, and showed how a relationship between age and trust can be explained by experience with the Internet and general attitudes toward technology.
Panel Virtual Knowledge: Insights from Research and Prospects for the Future, organized by Paul Wouters and Sally Wyatt, examined changes related to knowledge production in the digital age, raising questions such as: does knowledge itself change when the tools of knowledge acquisition, representation and distribution become digital? Do new actors become involved and/or do traditional actors become less prominent in knowledge production? Are there shifts in power relations around knowledge? Is the essence and nature of knowledge affected? Following an introduction to panel by Sally Wyatt, Matthijs Kouw talked about uncertainty in knowledge representations; Stefan Dormans and I discussed affective labour in scholarly collaboration; Nicholas Jankowski and Clifford Tatum reflected on openness in scholarly publishing; Paul Wouters discussed data-sharing and data-intensive research; Sally Wyatt examined the changing notions of expertise in knowledge production. The panel wrapped up with an announcement of the forthcoming edited collection, Virtual Knoweldge, which will include papers presented at this panel and will be published by the MIT press.