Forms of Symbolic Violence in the Web

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Seminar 34 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Elena GREMIGNI, University of Pisa, Italy
Today the Internet shows many examples of commercial conditioning that make this public space less and less free. Users often appear so deeply integrated into the market that they seem to be transformed into commodities (Bauman 2007), showing a specific “Schaufenster-Qualität der Dinge” (Simmel 1896). Furthermore, within the cyberspace it is possible to observe the exploitation of information produced by connected individuals: the most popular search engines and Social Network Sites reveal their belonging to a cultural industry that uses its users as consumers and producers (prosumers) at the same time. But this “third job” (Toffler, Toffler 2006) goes far beyond the exchange with the services offered and the pleasant entertainment hides forms of abuse. Users’ behaviour is a commodity under the guise of information that generates wealth for third parties and may negatively affect unaware people’s lives.

This paper uses the “clue paradigm” (Ginzburg 1979) in order to identify some “traces” (Benjamin 1927-1940) of a tendency towards a closure of the Web into “filter bubbles” (Pariser 2011) in the indexing processes market oriented by search engines, in the increasingly larger use of apps, and in the “mass” adhesion to popular Social Network Sites. The purpose of this research is to highlight some forms of hidden persuasion and exploitation that limit users’ freedom even when there is no explicit censorship in the Internet. The “doxic” acceptance of contents, structures and tools of the Web indeed bars some kinds of knowledge and some different models of participation, with significant consequences on the social construction of reality. In conclusion, we can extend to cyberspace what Bourdieu said about hidden persuasion: “of all forms of ‘hidden persuasion’, the most implacable is the one exerted, quite simply, by the order of things” (Bourdieu 1992).