Reimagining Internet Studies:

Like the web itself, the study of the web is mostly an improvised structure. A group of progressive scholars, swept up by the technological transformation of the past decade, have done their best to keep up with understanding the massive cultural and social effects of our communication infrastructure.

Not surprisingly, the inevitable outcome of this state of affairs is that the body of research about the web is fatally fragmented. Economists are caught attempting to assert dated models against new motivational frameworks. Journalists attempt to prescribe weak methods to maintain traditional standards around the creation and transfer of information. Marketers and social media experts, still largely divorced from a universe of quantitative and technical research, fail to provide a useful approach. No coherent body of research has emerged focusing on studying the internet as the internet.

This has resulted in fundamental weaknesses in the approach to studying social phenomena online. Relevant approaches are being ignored and opportunities for applying cutting edge research from a number of siloed traditions are going unexplored.

Our field poses two simple questions to researchers:

  • “Where have studies about the web failed?” and,
  • “How can we do better?”

The emerging field of Web Ecology is an attempt to unify contemporary research and practice under a common focus, set of principles, and general approach to promote new insights and more fruitful forms of exchange in this space. We believe that these lay the groundwork for a more vibrant, more dynamic, and more useful field of research and community of researchers.