Invisible Participation: Language and the Internet

Abstract (in English): 

Language is the hidden scaffolding of networks, applications, and web sites. It is minified and monetized in ways that are often occluded from the everyday user’s experience. From their point of view, the interaction is innocuous – language is used for labels and explanations. A few words are typed into an empty field and thousands of related results appear instantly. A simple search, an email to a friend, a unique phrase – all easily logged, monetized, and indexed. This is the world of invisible participation.

Our panel is interested in language on the Internet, how it is created, by whom, where it exists, and how it is used. Three examples: Google reads our emails, garners information from our personal messages and uses that profiling strategy to select “relevant” ads. It then displays those ads on the screen next to the very emails from which the information was initially taken. Facebook and other social media platforms use similar methods of securing and storing data — data that is paradoxically private and public, and all personal. Further, crowd-sourced encyclopedias like Wikipedia are shaping the way we read, learn, and think. Language is what links all of these sites together. All of the sites’ underlying organization and structures have been built to follow the logic we ourselves employ in using language. “Robots” read content, algorithms interpret it and databases memorize it. The impact of this process is no longer confined to the Internet, but has reached beyond it into our everyday lives.

Databases/Archives referenced:

Titlesort descending Organization responsible
ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base ELMCIP: Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice, University of Bergen, Electronic Literature Research Group, University of Bergen, Program in Digital Culture
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Record posted by: 
Scott Rettberg