PhD Project Vanessa Wein

Summary of the PhD Project

Digital Choreography. Designs of Practice and Time in Online Worlds.

Every user of the internet inevitably leaves traces of himself (who?), of his location (where?), and of the point of time (when?) and period of usage (how long?). It is the task of automatic analysis tools to create these traces, viz. written protocols, to condense the data, and to present it in readable form. Through those tools, it is possible to observe how people use homepages. Those analysis tools are products or materialized theorems which are enhanced with theoretical considerations and enable the observation and simultaneously frame their results. From the perspective of the sociology of sociomateriality, the design and production of the analysis tool as well as its usage and effect are moved into the center of attention.

The subject of this dissertation is the virtual observation of the internet’s usage practices as mediated by analysis tools. In the style of theoretical and empirical considerations of the sociology of science and the sociology of finance in concerns of the reproduction and representation of expertise, this study examines, first, how the ‘deep space’ (Luhmann) of the internet is designed and used daily, secondly, how this daily usage is observed, and thirdly, how those observational results flow back into the design of websites with the aim of increasing the time of browsing on the users’ respective sites. The project tries to empirically answer the following questions: How is the control of user streams on the respective sites conducted over time? How is the usage pre-designed to enable the site’s affordance to unnoticeably frame the time of the internet usage? Which role do algorithms play and how are they generated? The study follows up on sociological approaches from i.a. media und materiality studies and thereby contributes to the analysis of how the usage is managed and designed.