Looks + Substance: An Introduction to User Experience (UX)

What makes a great website great? You tell me. This is the core of UX: listening to what the user wants and needs in order to design the best possible product. For my thesis, I’m researching online survey design and the way different design choices (such as putting a logo on your survey) may affect the responses you get. My research topic was inspired by my background in UX and user-centred design, which I learned as part of my masters degree in library and information science. While UX may seem like a very specialised field, its principles and methods can […]

Data, Knowledge, and Knowing Through Data

We live in a world ruled by data in all realms, not just the scientific or mathematical but the political and the personal. This comes with both benefits and costs. The benefits are well known. The unprecedented access to evidence allows for more detailed analysis and more informed research, for instance. The costs, on the other hand, are typically tied to ethical problems raised by data collection regarding invasion of privacy, digital dossiers, and database misuse. The influx of data and our increasing willingness to turn to it, however, generates a more pernicious problem closely associated what makes our surplus […]

“internet” vs. “Internet”: The Consequence of Capitalization

Read enough about digital developments and you’re bound to run into a subtle inconsistency: the capitalization of the word “internet.” Some scholars do, some scholars don’t. This may lead you to ask a fairly natural question: which version is right? Many default to “Internet” with a capital “I,” but this choice is far from universal. The New York Times, Chicago Manual of Style, and AP swear by the capital letter. The Guardian, the Economist, and Wired do not. Commentaries and academic articles vary, as do personal blogs and social media posts (themselves perhaps governed by a different sort of lexical […]

Exploring the Geography of WorldBank.org

 “Once we become critical of the assumption that the Web is a neutral repository of information, the structure of the Web becomes much more interesting.” – M.H Jackson, 1997 Absences speak volumes, and yet, interpreting information gaps online has produced only muffled truths. Studies on the geographical origin of Internet content have shown old divides between rich and poor countries repeat themselves online. For example, the vast majority of the shares of Google’s user generated content, academic journal citations and authorship of Wikipedia entries tilt to the wealthier global north. Admittedly, exploring digital landscapes is far less adventurous than the globetrotting variety. However, these journeys allow us to […]

How Privacy Advocates Respond to Piracy Hawks: a rudimentary analysis on public salience

It makes sense that the salience of these two issues would be related. Anti-piracy laws and countermeasures tend to violate traditional privacy norms – indeed they are perhaps the biggest threat to our online privacy these days. The Google insight chart below shows the relative volume of ‘privacy’ and ‘piracy’ in news headlines since 2008. What we see here is that often after an upward blip in the public salience of piracy, there is a corresponding upward blip in the public salience of privacy (there are, however, spikes in privacy that are seemingly unrelated to piracy salience). This fits with […]

Network Effects–We Missed the Inframarginals

When discussing the internet, the economic concept that seems to have made the largest dispersion into popular discourse is the concept of ‘network effects’. “Facebook  is unconquerable because of positive network externalities.” “Product X must reach the tipping point so that network effects can take over,” etc. This sub-field is often treated as if it is more-or-less mature (and it may well be), but there is a serious theoretical ambiguity within the economic literature about exactly what a network effect is based upon. The original incarnation of the term deals with a good whose value increases as the number of […]