Web analysis intro

Over the semester, I’ll be assembling some material for my Web-Analysis class. For what its worth, since these will be short, easily digestible pieces, I figured I would copy them as I write them to my blog. Comments are, as always welcome, either here on the blog. If you have corrections, additions, etc., I encourage you to make them over on the wiki…

In the beginning, the World Wide Web was the new frontier, an unexplored land in a world that had few unexplored places left. After more than a decade, it has become commonplace for many people. They think nothing of turning to the web to find out about a news event, to buy a second-hand television, or to discuss the latest television programs. No longer alien, it is now a part of our collective lives.

And it continues to grow, becoming a center point for convergence. It provides the connective tissue for other internet technologies, from gaming to voice conversations. As more and more media is digitized, more and more social content is carried by the web. And at the same time, the medium itself recedes from view.

For a while, social scientists were interested in the Web because it represented a novel social phenomenon. What did this new medium mean for society? This was a difficult question to answer, in part because the medium alone, despite what McLuhan might have argued, tells us very little. How people make use of the new medium, how discourse evolves and shapes, and is shaped by, the structure of the evolving technology, is of vital interest.

This web site is dedicated to exploring the process of exploring the content of the Web. It is not an effort to discover “what’s on the Web,” so much as it is an attempt to examine what this means to our social existence. At the root of many, if not all, of the questions for which Web content holds an answer is the following overarching concern: how does the use of the Web affect existing institutions and social systems? The following sections of the site will provide the tools needed to extract and make sense of the content of the Web, and will discuss the ways in which this may be changing established institutions and patterns in politics, education, news, law, health, entertainment, and other areas of social interaction. Of particular interest, and I would argue of particular import, is a special sort of interaction that the Web enables, large-scale conversations.

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