Conceptualizing the Semantic Web as a Text, Image, and Performance Triptych

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21 Οκτ 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 11 μήνες)

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Conceptualizing the Semantic Web as a Text, Image,
and
Performance
Triptych


Prof. Jonathan Roberge

(INRS Urbanisation Culture Société, Québec, Canada)


Section: Culture and Society / Session: Cultural sociology in action: methodological
reflections and
empirical explorations (chair Dimitri Kurakin)


From

the devel
opment of the Arpanet by the A
merican army in the
1960s

to the Web 2.0
(O
’R
eilly 2005)
, less than half a century

has passed. During this period,
however,
what we
have witnessed is nothing
short
of a digital revolution, which now

affects every aspect of
cultural life
. Systems of values are
being
put to test, cultural practices
have
become blurred
and
highly complex, digital
devices have gained a certain autonomy (through the logic of
a
lgorithm, among other things). As if this process
were
neither fast nor
broad
enough, we
are
today challenged by yet another discursive machine in the making, namely the Web 3.0,
or

the

S
emantic
W
eb


(Baker 2006, Wainright 2005). What could lie behind suc
h
a
conceptual evolution? Is there a
n

actual

difference
justifying such a distinction
?

These
and
other questions raise
significant
epistemological
,
as well as ontological
,

issues
.
A deeper
u
nderstanding
in this realm

would
inform our comprehension of the
present

and the social
sciences in general,
and
cultural sociology in particular should be equipped with

new tools
to make sense of such

complicated

passage
. This paper aim
s

at

clarifying what these
new
and
improve
d

tools

could be
, but more specifically it

will try to elaborate on their intrinsic
relation
s
.

As the Web 2.0 and 3.0 are fashion
ed

by strophe and narrative,
highly

visually
determined

and
en
acted
through the
presentation of the self, they
can be usefully
considered according to the

triptych
(
or
trialectic
)

formed by text, image
,

and performance.

Of the three notions, that

of text is the most obvious. A futur
e

Semantic Web will still be
organized by bits of
written

materials,
even
though they
may be smaller or more distanced
from one another.

In s
uch an analysis
,

c
ultural sociology would thus be able to claim its
filiation

to post
-
structuralism and hermeneutics (see Alexander
&
Smith

1998, Ricoeur
1986, Roberge 2009, 2011). The challenge ahead will be to propose
a
rich and thick
description of the
meanings carried

t
hrough

such text
s
,

as much as

and this is new

propos
ing

original ways to link them to
the second part of the triptych

images.
The
Semantic Web
might

not enhance visual culture

per
se
, but it will
redefine

it in yet
un
imagined ways. While
prior effort
s

to ascribe meaning to
representation
s and icons are
to be
acknowledged
,
e.g.

the work of
Roland Barthes, it will be of special importance to
overcome the
aforementioned

and
much
-
discussed

word/image dualism (
see
Bartmanski
2012).
In

serious
leisure


websites like
those
dedicated to
food blogging
, there is now a
clear trend toward such
an
overcoming
,

even though sociologist
s

are not ready to give
significance to such
profane

subject matter
.


And then comes the question of performance.
Of the
t
hree
segment
s

of the triptych, this one is the most complex because the literature on
the topic is
much
less developed
, with
maybe
the exception of Schechner
’s

or Turner’s
work
.
Performativity in the context of the Web, present and future, will
both
mean a
nd put
into motion different and contradictory things. Codes, digital software, platforms and the
like will
do

more

and

act

more

and in more efficient ways

(Mackenzie 2005)
. Individuals,
for their part, will also create and generate more
varied
or
different cultural content
,

and by
so doing
reinvent their
modes of
interaction (see Van Dijck 2009, for instance).
As such
,
h
ow
can
both
systemic and interactionist

dimensions
be remediated, either
though
the
tools of cultural sociology or in the context
of a Semantic Web?
Moreover, h
ow can they be
reunited with the questions of text and image
in
a
rich yet subtle
way
? In the conclusion of
the paper, I will argue that our capacity to
imagine, understand
,

and even explain the text,
image, and performance tr
iptych is
fundamental for

renew
ing

cultural sociology
,

thus
preparing

it
for
the digital challenges
that lie ahead
in the near future.