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old and incomplete
Web network location software - scenarios of use
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design & media research fellowship, Jan van Eyck
preferred placement book
netlocator software
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the rogue and rogued video
information society initiative
lay decision support system
issue barometer
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election issue tracker

Theatrum Anatomicum, de Waag, Society for Old and New Media
Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam
Saturday, 16 October 2000 10.30-18.00


Archived announcement

Preferred Placement: The Hit Economy, Hyperlink Diplomacy and Web

Preferred placement is a term employed by search engine companies for boosting sites in query returns. Organisations pay engine companies to have their sites placed higher in search engine returns, in order to receive more hits. When they add up, hits count. In the hit economy, organisations hope to gain banner advertising revenue and demonstrable net presence. Hit counts show presence. They indicate measures of site popularity and reliability. Or do they?

A different measure of reliability and reputability may be found in hyperlinks. Quantities of 'links in' single out the authoritative voices on the web, according to the latest engine logics. Hyperlinking is telling in other ways, too. It shows which organisations acknowledge the presence and relevance of others. It also may indicate trust between organisations. When larger sets of organisational interlinkings are mapped, networks of power and knowledge, and landscapes of discourse and debate may be found.

Exploring new engine logics and information visualisation techniques, the symposium will focus on how knowledge is being gained these days from 'reading between the links'. We refer to these new forms of knowing as web epistemology.

The symposium includes presentations on the following:

Web epistemology: Tracking and authoring reliability
Banners, clicks and rings: In defense of the hit economy
The Web as political economy
Cybergeographies: The new Mappae Mundi
Footprints in the snow: Subjective and contextual social navigation
Hyperlink diplomacy: Inside the emerging link economy
Playing with search engines and mapping geographies of power & knowledge
govcom.org: Experimenting with the persistent pluralist potential
The debate engine: Dynamic systems for public dialogue
10 years of social theory of the net
Virtual Society?
A visual language for hyperlink theory

Speakers and discussants include:

Prof. Steve Woolgar, Brunel University; Martin Dodge, University College, London; Dr Matthew Chalmers, University of Glasgow; Nick Durrant, MetaDesign, London; Korinna Patelis, Goldsmiths College, London; Dr Richard Rogers, University of Amsterdam/Royal College of Art; Michael Murtaugh, Jam! Media for Public Dialog, Amsterdam; Prof. Gillian Crampton-Smith, Computer Related Design, Royal College of Art, London; Dr Gerald Wagner, Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, Berlin; Michael Kay, Electronic Publishing Programme, Open Society Institute, Budapest

Pre-registration recommended. Information and registration:

Further information: Richard Rogers, 31.43.350.3576,

Programme Description


The symposium takes up one of the everlasting challenges of the Web. In 1994, before the advent of search engines, portals, Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer, the Millenium Whole Earth Catalog posed the classic problem as follows.

"The least discussed, but most important aspect of what's ahead is quality assurance. The democratic nature of the Net, where eminent scientists and isolated crackpots can publish side by side, leads to wide variations in the self-policing. . . . Authenticating that a resource is the definitive, unedited version is next to impossible."

Various strides have been made towards not only authenticating the 'real source', but also determining and then boosting the more reliable sites over the less reliable. The symposium opens by taking stock of these efforts to distinguish between the eminent and the crackpot, and to establish levels of reliability and reputability.

In the introduction dr. Richard Rogers, design & media fellow at the Jan van Eyck Academy, sets up some of the problems to be tackled during the symposium. From virtual mastheads and red star reliability graphics to collaborative filtering and network mapping, he will describe the various attempts made thus far to create voices of authority on the web, and to move the net beyond the rumour mill. He also will introduce the day's speakers.

If the Web comes closer than most media to date in creating a condition of perfect information, perhaps the market is able to separate the wheat from the chaff. In defense of the hit economy, Nick Durrant, information designer and corporate web consultant at MetaDesign, London, explains what we can learn from interpreting hit counts. He also will take us through the emerging cache economies.

Infomediaries, as they are called, are one of the forces that configure what we come to know from the web. Combined browser and portal providers, such as America On-Line, perform on-line power by putting up signs and directions on their opening pages. Speaking about the phenomenon of signposting, Korinna Patelis, lecturer in the political economy of the Internet at Goldsmiths College, London, will relate how these cultural environments construct information and knowledge much like langugage constructs perception.

Perhaps the most palpable method for understanding new spaces is mapping. Cybergeographers, as Martin Dodge of University College London will show and tell, employ techniques of yesteryear in charting the latest mappae mundi, as medieval world maps were called. New data mining technologies also are driving the development of contemporary visualisation techniques. Novel ways to read data traffic and information trafficking are at hand; they also give an indication of what we do not know about the Web.

Situating knowledge involves situating the author. In the ongoing information authorship debate, ushered in decades ago by hypertext theorists, two distincts positions have emerged, represented at the symposium. The early afternoon will be devoted to fleshing out the value of tracing the path of the surfer, and reading and sharing the stories authored. Dr. Matthew Chalmers, lecturer in information visualisation at the University of Glasgow, will explain how the single and the collective journey may be utilised. He will present Recer, a social navigation tool based on subjectivity and context.

Are journeys and stories also being authored by webmasters? Another approach to the navigation debate looks for the discourses and stories made through strategic hyperlinking by webmasters. Noortje Marres, theorist-in-residence at the Jan van Eyck Academy, will delve into the methods by which a network may be rubbed, before stories through it are traced. Introducing govcom.org, the fellowship's conceptual URL, Richard Rogers joins her in explaining the kinds of transdiscursive stories they are seeking.

In close collaboration with the Fellowship theorists, the designers at the Academy have been developing a visual link language. The design project shows how authority and reliabiliy on the web may be authored. Stephanie Hankey, designer-in-residence, Ian Morris, programmer-in-residence, and Alex Bruce Wilkie will present how one may locate the authoritative voices in specific discourses, in a glance. They'll also introduce the working design outcomes of not hypertext, but hyperlink theory.

In one model of social innovation, dialogue is being sought between .gov's, .com's and .org's; in another it must be driven by public participation. Michael Murtaugh, formerly of newMetropolis and now of Jam! New Media for Public Dialog in Amsterdam, will show how dynamic narrative structures place authors and audience in a continual dialog. He also will demonstrate the public debate engine, first developed at the Amsterdam science & technology center as an input device for public policy-making.

In the final portion of the day, meta-perspectives are put forward. Dr. Gerald Wagner, Feuilleton journalist for the new Berlin pages of the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, will comment critically on the last ten years of social theory of the Net. Steve Woolgar, professor of sociology at Brunel University and head of the major U.K. ESRC Virtual Society? programme, will provide the most counter-intuitive results of the 22 research projects on virtuality. Finally, Gillian Crampton-Smith, Professor in Computer Related Design at the Royal College of Art, will open a discussion with the symposium about what electronic publishers, designers and theorists may learn from new notions of web epistemology.

Upon conclusion the directorship of the Jan van Eyck Academy will receive the symposium.

The Symposium is held in association with Computer Related Design Research at the Royal College of Art. The Fellowship is supported by the City of Maastricht, the Province of Limburg, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Day Design by Peter Bilak.


If ARPANET's first 'ping' is taken as its birth, the Net is 30 years old on the 20th of October, 1999.


Limited seating is available, so please register for the Symposium before 1 October. Registration is fl. 35,-

All registration, symposium and fellowship information are available at http://www.govcom.org. For immediate registration jump to http://www.govcom.org/machine/registration.htm. Server runs on Linux.

For more detailed information on the Fellowship research work, contact

Richard Rogers, rogers@chem.uva.nl, tel. 31 43 350 3756.

The symposium papers will be compiled in an edited volume. Publication information will appear on the govcom.org web site in November.

Registrants will receive that information by email.

Symposium programme subject to change.