Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Digitization, Innovation, and Participation: Digital Conviviality of the Google Cultural Institute
by Stone, Leah, Ph.D., Colorado State University, 2018, 482; 10824526
Abstract (Summary)

The Frightful Five—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google—shape the way data are generated and distributed across digital space (Manjoo, 2017). Through their technologies and increase in scope and scale, these titans provide new ways for people to create, find, and share information online. And, with such control, they have continued as well as expanded their reign over information commerce, changing the way that people and technology interact. In this way, tech giants act as gatekeepers over data, as well as serve as all-mighty-creators over technologies that arguably act on humans.

To explain, debates over whether or not technologies are employing “computational agency” (Tufecki, 2015, p. 207) have developed. One of these disputes is commonly referred to as the Great Artificial Intelligence (AI) Debate, and is currently being publicly argued between two of the most prominent tech titans: Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook (Narkar, 2017). On one side of the AI argument, sits tech mogul Musk, who is crying for regulatory restrictions over AI and painting doomsday pictures of robots killing humans. Conversely, on the other side of the dispute, sits tech giant Zuckerberg, who claims AI will enhance society as it makes the world a better place.

This great AI debate underscores what Illich (1973) described as organizations that practice in convivial versus non-convivial ways. In other words, as tech titans are continuing to advance technology, it can be argued that they are operating in convivial ways as they enhance society through their participatory tools that work with humans to complete a task. Alternatively, it can be debated that technology organizations may be functioning in non-convivial ways as they manipulate society for the sake of their technologies. And, while these technologies may be participating with humans (convivial) to complete a task, they may actually be working for and/or acting on humans (non-convivial) to do an activity.

The purpose of this dissertation was to establish a unique approach to studying the conviviality of technology titans and how they organize digital space, a concept the researcher coined as digital conviviality. Digital conviviality is when a technology company operates in digital convivial ways such that it: (a) builds tools for digital communication; (b) has a value proposition that, while aimed at generating a profit, is also focused on using its technology to enhance society, instead of manipulating society for the sake of its technologies; and (c) designs technological tools that work with humans, instead of tools that work for humans or tools that act on humans, to accomplish a task. To further understand this conception of digital conviviality, an investigation was piloted into a tech titan that arguably claims to promote digital conviviality at its core: Google.

Using Illich’s (1973) notion of conviviality as a guide, an exploration into Google’s approach to convivial technologies was conducted. This study sought to understand Google’s ability to shape information in the arts and culture space. Through its Google Cultural Institute (GCI) and Google Arts & Culture (GAC) initiatives, Google focused on “democratizing access to the world’s culture” (Google CI Chromecast, 2014, 00:44). In this way, the study aimed to answer the overarching question: in what ways is the GCI considered a digital convivial company, and conversely, in what ways is it not? Based on this, an explication of the concept of digital conviviality and a framework for studying such things were developed.

Drawing from several disciplines, methodologies, and theoretical frameworks (e.g., science and technology, posthumanism, actor-network theory, design science in information systems, business models, digital methods, and convivial studies), a body of theory was gathered together, synthesized, and enhanced. Next, the collected information was used to assemble and create a new methodological strategy called digital convivial tracking with a design science (DS) approach and actor-network theory (ANT) mindset. Digital convivial tracking employs traditional qualitative methods, as well as innovative digital methods, to trace important objects throughout a digital ecosystem. Because the GCI digitizes the world’s arts and culture, the iconic The Starry Night painting by Vincent van Gogh (1889d) was selected as the object to track across the institute’s ecosystem. This process helped identify the GCI’s complex and entangled business model, as well as its technological innovations. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Champ, Joseph
Commitee: Amidon, Timothy, Guzik, Keith, Seel, Pete, Switzer, Jamie
School: Colorado State University
Department: Journalism and Media Communication
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-B 80/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Management, Information Technology, Artificial intelligence
Keywords: Artificial intelligence, Business model canvas, Digital methods, Google, Information systems, Technology management
Publication Number: 10824526
ISBN: 978-0-438-40462-5
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