What Is Social about the Network?: An Analysis of the Application Program Interfaces of Popular Websites

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Booth 47
Oral Presentation
Ashwin NAGAPPA , School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India
Alpesh GAJBE , Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India
Faebitha RAHIMAN , Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India
API (Application Program Interface) is the method of continous asynchronous sourcing of data between various 'applications'. It facilitates exchange of data between nodes in a 'network'. By examining at the nature of the data extracted by the API and its use of the data in defining the utility of the 'application' we can produce a critical appraisal of the nature of the techno-social interaction afforded by the 'networked'/'networking' society.

The promise of communications technology among other things is the democracy and the user defined nature of interaction of players constituted by it. But the use of 'bubble' (Pariser, 2011) produced in the human-computer interaction to fashion online activities alerts us to a bias in the nature of such interactions while enforcement of technologies like unique identity based governance systems further complicates the digital divide bringing up the question of equality..

This paper is based on the analysis of API codes and its mechanisms, offered by Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The analysis looks into the nature of the 'bubble' generated in order to define the character of the network. This is in a bid to argue that the randomness promised by it is being reined in order to create patterns of interaction that are arbirary and unequal compouding the problems experienced in infrastructural access and the lack of 'cultural' capital.

Technology is best analysed in technological terms in order to arrive at an understanding of its sociological dimensions. Such orientation is politically necessary to make apparent the the hardwiring of inequality in the era of big data.