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Deciding Upon Fast Solutions In D13

I'm planning to be conversing with you today concerning the role of the Web in political activism. So I spent time with one of these activists and asked them whether or not these were using social media, whether they were engaging with the Web, and why they may be doing it.

Going out in to the field and talking to political activists is important, because it provides you with an insight into their ideology, their motivations, and why they think it's important to make use of certain Web technologies.

To be able to go and talk with these activists, I needed a technique of research that combined computer science and social science. And that's where Web science came in.

I have a background in international relations, so I knew about political ideology theoretically and doing an MSc in Web science, and knowing about networks and organisation online was really essential for me.

So with that at heart, I turned up in London, prepared to observe how these political activists were using the Web for their protests. And what I came across D13 was that, broadly now, in 2013, there is apparently a lot of apathy, or even outright hostility, towards the Web and social media.

The primary reason? The NSA.

The story had just broken that large American online corporations, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, were cooperating with the NSA and collecting a lot of private data about citizens from not merely America, but all around the world. This was a thing that had sort of been known beforehand, however, not to the scale. And it put plenty of these activists off engaging with one of these mainstream websites and these mainstream social networking services, because they saw them now included in the establishment.

If you appear back towards the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, these technologies were technologies of liberation for many people. However now, only two years later, they have become technologies that symbolise surveillance by their state, the increased loss of privacy by individuals, and the typical ability for both corporations and governments to keep citizens in line and stop these kind of protests.

Discovering this was extremely very important to both my research, but also for Web science. Because I do believe it showed how it is very important to consider the social and the technical areas of the Web together.

The Web is this thing, that will be computers, but also humans. It's humans influencing technology, and technology influencing humans. And if you never look at how one affects another, it is very hard to express for certain how society is being changed and developed.

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