My most recent post for DML Central is the adaptation of the text from my Glasgow Lecture, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. I’ll be exploring the issues I raise in the blogpost in greater detail over the next year in the research project I’m starting next month as part of my Visiting Fellowship in the Media and Communications Department at LSE, funded by the Nominet Trust.

Here’s a taster:

The architecture of the internet and the designs of the web systems we use are the scaffolding upon which the people in charge of the new world — the Larry Pages, the Sergey Brins, the Mark Zuckerbergs in the West, the creators of RenRen, Mixti, Sina Weibo, Baidu and others in the East, the architects of m-Pasa in Africa — are using their agendas to set the status quo for how we service our basic human values. These agendas — which they may or may not be aware of — shape information and how we make sense of it…

In order to avoid blindly falling into a techno-fundamentalist trap, we need to understand how the human is constructed within the tools we use — based upon the design decisions that come from the sum of the social experiences of the developers: a tenet of my philosophy as a social psychologist. One way is to look at the ways human needs are fulfilled by services like Google and Facebook — systems that not only help us to make sense of the vast ocean of information that’s online, but most of the non-Western world as well. How are human phenomena like trust, identity, privacy, freedom, power, relevance, value and discovery embedded in the software designs?

Here, I’ll consider two of these human needs — relevance and identity — and how the two most powerful entities in our web space construct them.

Continue reading here.