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Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

Framing Political, Personal Expression on the Web

Framing Political, Personal Expression on the Web
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Author(s): Matthew W. Wilson (University of Washington, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 6
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch250


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The World Wide Web, as a collection of Web sites, Web services, and Web-enabled technologies, is a space of expression and contestation—a social construction of sorts. Additionally, the Web, as a locus of investigation, is gaining attention from scholars in the social sciences, feminist and critical theorists, as well as more recent poststructural reconceptualizations across many disciplines. One unifying interest is precisely the topic of this article: How might we recognize what is considered political and personal in a virtual space? To what sense can we distinguish political and personal expression online? This article frames the diverse perspectives for interrogating political and personal expression on the Web, while offering considerations for why these sorts of projects are at all necessary or useful. The determinacy of virtual, Web-based locations as political and/or personal is a complex endeavor. Does a prochoice posting to an anti-abortion online discussion group constitute a political act? What is potentially meant by “political”? Several discussion forums or news groups contain categories like “politics” or “government and politics” (see Yahoo! Groups for example); and yet, such groups may or may not be perceived as “political”. This perception of “being political” is dependent on certain philosophical tensions about what can be considered political in certain spaces and times. Other Web sites seek to build politics through the Web, via such movements as e-democracy, online deliberation, or public participation geographic information systems (Davies & Novack, forthcoming; Dragicevic & Balram, 2006). However, while building politics is certainly political, surficial analysis of such online-coalition building endeavors may resist or gloss the multiple political implications for constructing a politics. Therefore this entry contains a discussion of politics and “the political”; each as a perspective has certain methodological and empirical contingencies. Namely, how do we study online interactions? What sorts of data might we collect? Furthermore, how are we, as researchers, already implicated in our studies of online interactions? This entry proposes a diversity of approaches in studying interactions within the Web as informed by both the information sciences and the humanities and is organized into four sections: first, a background section which contemplates more traditional debate in political theory made relevant to studies of the Web; a second section which proposes (post)modernist and poststructuralist framings for researching personal and political expression; third, a section offering future research questions in this research area; and finally, conclusions that reflect upon research on the Web.

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