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Friday, October 12 • 9:00am - 10:30am
Infrastructures II: Im/Materialities

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Natasha Tusikov
Much online regulation uses the language of voluntary, industry compliance, thus raising the question of the retreat of the state. However, by examining the online regulation of intellectual property rights, this paper argues that the state plays a central role in directing specific regulatory outcomes. The U.S. government, acting on behalf of prominent rights holders, including Nike, has coerced the China-based Taobao marketplace to adopt non-legally binding agreements to curb the online sale of counterfeit goods. The goal is to pressure Taobao (part of the massive Alibaba Group conglomerate) to exceed its legal responsibilities voluntarily. Advocates describe this as a "beyond-compliance" regulatory strategy (European Commission, 2013, pp. 5-6). This paper explores how, and more importantly, why the U.S. government exports rules drafted by U.S. rights holders to shape the operation of Chinese marketplaces. More broadly, the paper considers the role of U.S. commercial and security interests in shaping both regulation of Internet services and Internet governance. Using the regulation of intellectual property as a case study, the paper explores the U.S. government's enrollment of Internet intermediaries - both U.S.-based companies like Google and PayPal and China-based firms - to institute standards that privilege western legal, economic, and political preferences. Drawing from the regulatory theory literature, the paper argues that intermediaries' work as regulators is a form of enforced hybrid regulation. The paper offers original research from interviews with policymakers and industry representatives, and textual analysis of documents from the U.S. government and Alibaba Group relating to the informal enforcement agreement.

Harsh Taneja, Angela Xiao Wu
This study analyzes how web audiences flow across online digital features. We construct a directed network of user flows based on sequential user clickstreams for all popular websites (n=1761), using traffic data obtained from a panel of a million web users in the United States. We analyze these data to identify constellations of websites that are frequently browsed together in temporal sequences, both by similar user groups in different browsing sessions as well as by disparate users. Our analyses thus render visible previously hidden online collectives and generate insight into the varied roles that curatorial infrastructures may play in shaping audience fragmentation on the web.

Jonathan Vincent Pace
This paper examines exchange relations on Silk Road, an anonymous online black market located in a concealed portion of the internet, the dark web. The federal court case of Ross William Ulbricht, Silk Road's architect and executive operator, constitutes the core of my source material. In United States v. Ulbricht, the prosecution presented as evidence Ulbricht's private correspondences and weekly business logs, in which he detailed major site-related activities. These offer a unique look into the otherwise hidden operations of Silk Road. I have also made use of Ulbricht's online statements, including his comments on the Silk Road discussion forums. In interpreting these materials, I have used what can best be described as critical discourse analysis to interrogate the operative assumptions within these texts, as well as the social and institutional contexts of their production. I argue that Silk Road represented an aggressively capitalist mode of exchange, marked by an absence of state regulation, a lack of status codes, an ineffective reputation system, and a resulting deluge of blackmail, scam, coercion, and monopoly. Contrary to its founder's vision of a libertarian utopia, the digital in free market in contraband was plagued with fraudulent economic practices, underwritten by a market logic that exploited the site's unique infrastructure. The salient principle of economic relationality on Silk Road was not cooperation and freedom but deception and intimidation.

John Logie
In 1996, Christina Haas's book Writing Technology: Studies in the Materiality of Literacy was a long-overdue investigation of how materiality — in the form of both writing tools and writing spaces — matters for composers of written texts. Haas's work addressed the practical implications of increasing use of digital tools on writing processes. My project is founded in a determination that our current circumstance is one in which the increasing immateriality of literacy is transforming what it means to write with digital technology.

For what we can now understand as a brief window of time ) computers were not necessarily attached to anything more than the power grid.

But from at least the 1990s forward, computers have been built with connectivity to the Internet as a foundational design element. As a practical consequence of this connectivity, 21st Century writers are now (virtually) far closer to others — and others’ texts — than at any point in human history.

This project is about the differences that make a difference as composers migrate towards internetworked digital composing spaces. Often, the preferences and practices of print composition will remain stubbornly in place as composers adopt new technologies (still writing on their QWERTY keyboards). But every now and again, we will experience moments of possibility, of perceived weightlessness as the potential of internetworked digital composing tools makes truly new practices and patterns of composition possible.

avatar for Natasha Tusikov

Natasha Tusikov

Assistant Professor, York University
Intermediary liability/regulation Private ordering/voluntary regulation Trademark/copyright regulation Internet of Things

Friday October 12, 2018 9:00am - 10:30am EDT
Sheraton - Drummond Centre