Web 2.0 user knowledge and the limits of individual and collective power
This paper revisits and builds upon a prominent theme in First Monday’s 2008 “Critical perspectives on Web 2.0” special issue: exploration and critique of the claim that Web 2.0 “... provides novel opportunities for the articulation of individual and collective social power by enhancing participation in media production and cultural expression” (Zimmer, 2008). This article refreshes the critique by examining how impediments to users’ technical knowledge about how Web 2.0 platforms function affect user power.
After reviewing how the scholarly literature on Web 2.0 accounts for the user knowledge/user power connection, this paper suggests Braman’s (2006) concept of “informational power” as a useful heuristic for exploring how access to information about how Web 2.0 platforms function operates as a “genetic” facet of user power. Then, using Braman’s framework, the article reviews two cases of struggle over informational power in regards to the Twitter platform: controversy over the Library of Congress Twitter archive and Occupy Wall Street protesters inaccurately accusing Twitter of censorship because of a misunderstanding about “Trending Topics.” Through the application of Braman’s framework to these cases, it becomes clear how users’ prospects for developing technical knowledge about the platforms shape the limits and horizons of individual and collective power.
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