Kevin Driscoll // Culture Digitally

Culture Digitally // Examining Contemporary Cultural Production

  • With the generous support of the National Science Foundation we have developed Culture Digitally. The blog is meant to be a gathering point for scholars and others who study cultural production and information technologies. Welcome and please join our conversation.

     

Kevin Driscoll

Kevin Driscoll works to encourage, support, and document cultures of everyday creativity. His recent research addresses the historicization of internet protocols, Wikipedia’s changing editorial community, and the technical innovations of young people of color in hip-hop. Kevin also supports open education initiatives as a member of the Students for Free Culture board of directors. He holds an MS in Comparative Media Studies from MIT, a BA in Visual Art from Assumption College, and formerly taught mathematics and computer science at Prospect Hill Academy Charter School in Cambridge, MA.


 


 

What one insight from your field, approach, method, findings etc. do you think is most important for scholars working in this topical area?

A year ago, I spoke with a colleague who was frustrated that as they searched for videos on YouTube, the results became increasingly homogeneous. Counter-intuitively, the search algorithm was returning to the same handful of videos over and over in a vain attempt to satisfy its user. It’s a simple story but a useful reminder that the technologies we use to conduct our research are as much the objects of study as they are helpful tools for gathering and interpreting data.

What are two issues that are not adequately treated within current work on cultural production in the digital age in your field or in others?

Communication scholarship seems to stumble when we try to address (or avoid) the technical details of interactions in online spaces. Step one in overcoming this problem is to start reading and writing more code! I’m looking forward to a near future of code literate humanists and social scientists.

Another recurring problem is that popular histories of the internet are overlooked in favor of histories that focus on industry, academy, and the military. In many cases, key figures in the early history of popular computing are still living. We should take advantage of this opportunity to reach out and meet these folks.

Are humanistic values such as justice, equality, democracy or (insert preferred humanistic value here) currently served by cultural production in a digital networked environment?

I’m not sure what the appropriate means to observe, measure, or assess humanistic values are in digitally networked environments. While events and artifacts are more visible than they might have been in the past, they carry a heavier burden to account for a variety of contexts, histories, and perspectives. I’m curious about how individuals and groups handle conflicting interpretations of these values (justice, equality, and democracy) in networked environments.

One major conflict on the horizon concerns the growing gap between user expectations and the technical/political reality of web services (in terms of ownership, publicity/privacy, etc.)