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Modelling the Media Logic of Software Systems

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Presentation at the "Media Logics Revisited" Conference, Bonn, 22.09.2015

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Modelling the Media Logic of Software Systems

  1. 1. Modelling the Media Logic of Software Systems Jan-Hinrik Schmidt @janschmidt Senior Researcher for digital interactive media and political communication # MLR2015  Bonn  22.09.2015
  2. 2. The challenge • „Internet Research“ – whether it‘s focus is on political participation, on the changing boundaries of privateness and publicess, new modes of collaborative cultural production, etc. – has to face a central question: How do we conceptualize and theorize the nexus of technology, mediality and sociality for digital, networked media? • Concepts such as Media Logic, Media Dispositiv, or Affordances address this question from different perspectives • While they clearly are very valuable both theoretically & empirically, I‘d argue that these concepts do not … 1. … provide an analytical lens operating on the level of particular software systems  For some purposes, we need more nuanced statements than just assessing „the networked media logic “ or particular genres („the affordances of Blogs“) 2. … grasp the duality inherent to the „technology-mediality-sociality“-relation  Software systems are at the same time structuring social interaction and structured by social interaction #mlr2015 2 of 12
  3. 3. Modelling the Media Logic of Software Systems (1/2) #mlr2015 3 of 12 Layers of Software Systems External Interfaces User Interfaces Default Settings Data Structures Algorithms Models
  4. 4. I: Models Models refer to the concepts, schemes and general ideas with which software developers abstract from the contingent social reality to arrive at formal descriptions which can be coded, i.e. expressed in computational language. Models frame on a very basic level what a particular software system should and will „do“, and what not Cc-BY 2.0, tec_estromberg, https://www.flickr.com/photos/92334668@N07/11122773785/ Specific practices (e.g. requirement engineering) are performed to translate knowledge about social domains to be modelled (cf. Funken 2001; Kaminski 2012) Modelling social reality relies on the assumption of formalizability (and thus: computability) of social reality #mlr2015 4 of 12
  5. 5. II: Algorithms Algorithms refer to all procedures inscribed in software code to calculate, aggregate, filter, combine and display data in digital communication The impact of algorithmic filtering, sorting etc. on media production and media consumption has been strongly debated – and to a somewhat lesser extent researched – over the last years • e.g. in the field of journalism research (cf. Gillespie 2013; Napoli 2014; Dörr 2015) • e.g. voicing concerns about lack of transparency and accountability, especially with regard to „algorithms that do not result in simple, ‚correct‘ answers – [...] that are utilized as subjective decision makers“ (Tufekci 2015, p. 206) #mlr2015 5 of 12
  6. 6. III: Data Structures Data structures refer to the variables, categories, data types and their relations through which communication and actors are represented Data structures transform social phenomena into binary distinctions and make them – in conjunction with algorithms – computationable „Datafication“ does also contribute to practices of sorting, inclusion and social control (cf. Lyon 2003; Gugerli 2009), with (at least) three issues of power involved 1. Who is designing data structures for which purpose? 2. Who is setting data (system-generated vs. user-generated data)? 3. Who is able to query data for which purposes? #mlr2015 6 of 12
  7. 7. IV: Defaults Defaults refer to the standard values of data categories which are pre-set without users‘ action, thus shaping (at least initially) the form and behaviour of software Since default settings are seldom changed, they are considered as a viable alternative to legal rules in order to govern user behavior (e.g. Shah/Kesan 2008) or „nudge“ users to perform certain practices (cf. Sunstein 2015. • e.g. with respect to privacy management on SNS (cf. Riesner et al. 2013) • e.g. supporting or undermining copyright regimes on UGC platforms #mlr2015 7 of 12
  8. 8. V: User Interfaces • User Interfaces refer to those parts of a software system users interact with to select from functionalities, to input data or to extract information. • User Interfaces, through „front-ends“ and „back-ends“, make constraints and opportunities afforded by a software system visible and experiencable to the user(*) (*) including us researchers, who are mainly „code-illiterate“ • Design decisions range from simple functionalities (e.g. size and title of „Status update“ field) to rather general modes of presenting information (e.g. concept of „timeline“ / „newsfeeds“) #mlr2015 8 of 12 Facebook (2015) Facebook (2008)
  9. 9. VI: External Interfaces External Interfaces refer to those parts of software systems which regulate the exchange of data with other systems – e.g. Code Objects such as Facebooks Like Button  operated by users to share content from all parts of the web within other platforms and networks – e.g. „Application Programming Interfaces“ (API)  mainly accessible to developers; affording exchange of data as well as connecting different services and functionalities (e.g. mash-ups; authentification; …) Weiterführend: http://www.programmableweb.com/api/google-maps/mashups |http://labs.davidbauer.ch/zeitreise #mlr2015 9 of 12
  10. 10. Modelling the Media Logic of Software Systems (2/2) Layers of Software Systems External Interfaces User Interfaces Default Settings Data Structures Algorithms Models #mlr2015 10 of 12 Structuring communicative practice Being structured by communicative practice Users Developers Operators observation/interaction (direct & indirect) Communicative figuration e.g. requirement analysis, A/B- testing, user feedback & user reviews, „hacking“ / modding,…
  11. 11. Summary & Outlook How do we conceptualize and theorize the nexus of technology, mediality and sociality for digital, networked media? Software systems contribute to a structuring of social reality which is (a) inscribed into models, algorithms, data structures, default settings, user interfaces and external interfaces, and (b) at the same time being (re-)produced by a communicative figuration of users, developers, and operators of software systems How to translate this model into empirical research? - Not sure yet. - Planned: In-depth case study of a platform for citizen-politician-interaction - Reconstructing decisions that went into layers of software system via structured interviews with developers and operators - Reconstructing constraints and opportunities experienced via structured interviews with users #mlr2015 11 of 12
  12. 12. Thank You! Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt Hans-Bredow-Institute Rothenbaumchaussee 38, 20148 Hamburg j.schmidt@hans-bredow-institut.de www.hans-bredow-institut.de www.schmidtmitdete.de @janschmidt #mlr2015 12 of 12
  13. 13. References Bodle, Robert (2011): Regime des Austauschs. Offene APIs, Interoperabilität und Facebook. In: Oliver Leistert und Theo Röhle (Hg.): Generation Facebook. Über das Leben im Social Net. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, S. 79–100. Chlebek, Paul (2012): Praxis der User Interface-Entwicklung: Informationsstrukturen, Designpatterns, Vorgehensmuster. Wiesbaden: Vieweg + Teubner. Dörr, Konstantin Nicholas (2015): Mapping the field of Algorithmic Journalism. In: Digital Journalism, in print. Funken, Christiane (2001): Modellierung der Welt. Wissenssoziologische Studien zur Software-Entwicklung. Opladen: Leske + Budrich. Gerlitz, Carolin; Helmond, Anne (2013): The Like economy. Social buttons and the data-intensive web. In: New Media & Society, S. 1–18. Gillespie, Tarleton (2013): The relevance of algorithms. In: Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski und Kirsten Foot (Hg.): Media technologies. Essays on communication, materiality, and society. Cambridge [u.a.]: MIT Press. Gugerli, David (2009): Suchmaschinen. Die Welt als Datenbank. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Hjarvard, Stig (2013): The mediatization of culture and society. London: Routledge. Kaminski, Andreas (2012): Wie entsteht Software? Übersetzungen zwischen vertrautem Kontext und formalem System: Die heiße Zone des Requirements Engineerings. In: Christian Schilcher und Mascha Will-Zocholl (Hg.): Arbeitswelten in Bewegung. Arbeit, Technik und Organisation in der „nachindustriellen Gesellschaft“. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, S. 85–123. Lyon, David (Hg.) (2003): Surveillance as social sorting. Privacy, risk, and digital discriminatio. London [u.a.]: Routledge. Napoli, P. M. (2014), Automated Media: An Institutional Theory Perspective on Algorithmic Media Production and Consumption. Communication Theory, 24: 340–360. doi: 10.1111/comt.12039 Riesner, Moritz; Netter, Michael; Pernul, Günther (2013): Analyzing settings for social identity management on Social Networking Sites. Classification, current state, and proposed developments. In: Information Security Technical Report 17 (4), S. 185–198. Shah, Rajiv C.; Kesan, Jay P. (2008): Setting online policy with software defaults. In: Information, Communication and Society 11 (3), S. 989–1007 Sieber, Samuel (2014): Macht und Medien. Zur Diskursanalyse des Politischen. Bielefeld: Transcript. Sunstein, Cass R. (2015): Nudging and Choice Architecture: Ethical Considerations. In: Yale Journal on Regulation. Online verfügbar unter http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Papers.cfm?abstract_id=2551264, zuletzt geprüft am 30.03.2015. Tufekci, Zeynep (2015): Algorithmic Harms beyond Facebook and Google: Emergent Challenges of Computational Agency. In: Colorado Technology Law Journal, Vol.13, No. 2, 203-217 #mlr2015 13 of 12