Jessa Lingel on the Craigslist Ethic: A Web 1.0 Vision of Online Democracy

March 10, 2022

Thursday, March 10th at 3:30
Freedom Forum Conference Center, Carroll Hall

A growing number of tech insiders are raising doubts about the long-term consequences of the mainstream internet, in terms of individual mental health as well as national democracy. The need for a more ethical internet has led some to embrace sci-fi imaginings and others to reject digital media altogether. This talk considers the vision of a single platform as instructive for thinking about the future of the web: craigslist. Over its 25-year history, craigslist has grown into a multi-faceted website for local exchanges, which can include buying, selling, hiring, apartment seeking, dating or simply ranting about the neighborhood. At once outdated and highly relevant, easy to use and easy to overlook, craigslist has mostly stayed the same while the web around it has changed, becoming less open and more profit driven. The design decisions and user policies governing craigslist give shape to particular a form of politics, and examining these rules and norms reveals what we stand to lose if the web continues to become less open and more gentrified, where platforms are pushed towards sleek professionalism over messy serendipity.

Jessa Lingel is an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, where she studies digital culture, looking for the ways that relationships to technology can show us gaps in power or possibilities for social change. Dr. Lingel’s research focuses on three key areas: alterity and appropriation, and investigations of how information and technology is altered, tinkered with, subverted, and articulated by marginalized groups; politics of infrastructure, where systems of categorization, organization, and design can reveal underlying ideologies and logics; and technological activism as a way of exploring how socio-technical practices can contribute to projects of social justice. She is the author of An Internet for the People: The Politics and Promise of craigslist.

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