Media Mutations – Tracking Culture on the Internet

It is important for us to track and analyse culture as it is ultimately the way we live and learn behaviors and knowledge of cultures can help us understand people and figure out the reasons why people behave a certain way.

The introduction of the internet has allowed a massive supply of information that mankind has never seen before which has impacted cultures across the globe as well as developing its own ‘internet’ subcultures. The internet is the medium where the majority of people and institutions now obtain their news and entertainment from whether directly or not and its accessibility has allowed any internet user to make material go public, essentially worldwide, a degree in which was never possible for the average person in the past.

Lev Manovich states that Googleblog announced that the index of webpages holds 1 trillion URLS, which definitely would have increased vastly since his article was created in late 2008 with the global population of internet users growing by 1 billion since that year now reaching 40% of the total world population at 2.9 billion people. As Manovich raises in his article, the increasing size and variety of content the internet contains makes it very challenging to be able to track and analyse its cultures, especially holistically. However, I don’t believe analysis of every tiny detail of the seemingly endless material posted onto the internet is completely necessary to track and grasp the nature of cultures represented on it. Philosopher Joseph Fruchel describes that cultural analysis is largely based on qualitative research methods but is done through mapping trends and their influences and I believe a ‘trend’ is cultural content which seems to appear the most on the internet, which can be tracked. The most dominant aspects and ‘trends’ of internet cultures can be tracked because tracking the number of viewership and/or participation in content is possible as well as positive or negative association with internet users.

We can track prominent opinions or movements that could be considered cultural using tactics such as analysing trends or hashtags on Twitter or other sites where the content is controlled by the user such as largely democratic sites like Reddit or YouTube, and the kind of impact content makes on its audience can be summarised by the amount of ‘upvotes’ or ‘downvotes’ or though analysing repeated key words in the comments. If researchers want this content to be assigned to a certain cultural or subcultural group, a census can be done on the available information for comments holding these keywords from the available information on such sites.

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