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What is my thesis about?

The digital age confronts us with an incredible amount of information every day. The Internet made it possible to share news and belives around the world but also created new distribution channels like Facebook, Twitter or better known as social media. Despite the positive aspects that everybody can express belives, it also allows to intentionally spread information and thus changes the public opinion. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scandale [1] and the interference of Russia in the US Election [2] are only two examples who made that very clear. Hence, Bernay’s early work “Propaganda” is still essential almost a century later. Bernays wrote, “as civilisation has become more complex, and as the need for invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented” [3].

Originally the term propaganda had a neutral or positive connotation, representing mainly the propagation of an idea or belive of a social, political and religious nature [4]. Western democracies established new terminology in industries and academia after both World Wars demonstrated, the manipulative potential of propaganda [5][6]. Unfortunately, research thereby neglected to scrutinise the central role of propaganda in our societies [4]. For this reason and also because news media researches try to bring propaganda back as a research topic [4], we refer to the natural notation of the term.

In social media, content is selected by algorithms according to a viewer’s previous behaviours [7] [8]. These digital representations of users give the service provider the ability to place tailored propaganda [9]. Conventional media in liberal democracies on the other hand can only act as a filter or mediator, but can not determine their readers. Every reader has a free choice to decide on which subjective filter or mediator to trust.

The goal of the master thesis is to provide a possible technical solution to overcome the current state of misinformation spreading; to own information curation; to determine the information’s origin; to screen the editorial process. To accomplish this task, we try to combine three established technologies Wikis, Linked Data and the Git data model in one framework. The Social Linked Data (Solid) platform builds the foundation to segregate the data storage from the service provider and defines the used web protocols and standards. In order to preserve the history, determine the origin and evolution of information, we use the main concepts of Git. Rather than using the Version Control System (VCS) directly, we transfer the concepts of the data model from file trees to static hypertext documents. Finally, the curation of information takes place in the wiki application. The main focus of the thesis is to determine to what extent the Git data model is transferable to hypertext documents based on Solid. These insights should be the basis for further research and development of the decentralised wiki prototype.

References

[1] J. Isaak and M. J. Hanna, “User data privacy: Facebook, cambridge analytica, and privacy protection,” Computer, vol. 51, no. 8, pp. 56–59, 2018.

[2] N. Persily, “The 2016 us election: Can democracy survive the internet?” Journal of democracy, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 63–76, 2017.

[3] E. L. Bernays, Propaganda. Ig publishing, 2005.

[4] F. Zollmann, “Bringing propaganda back into news media studies,” Critical Sociology, vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 329–345, 2019.

[5] A. Carey, Taking the risk out of democracy: Corporate propaganda versus freedom and liberty. University of Illinois Press, 1997.

[6] D. Miller and W. Dinan, A century of spin: How public relations became the cutting edge of corporate power. Pluto Press London, 2008.

[7] E. Pariser, The filter bubble: What the internet is hiding from you. Penguin Books Limited, 2011.

[8] S. Flaxman, S. Goel, and J. M. Rao, “Ideological segregation and the effects of social media on news consumption,” Available at SSRN, vol. 2363701, 2013.

[9] K. Ward, “Social networks, the 2016 us presidential election, and kantian ethics: Applying the categorical imperative to cambridge analytica’s behavioral microtargeting,” Journal of Media Ethics, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 133–148, 2018, doi: 10.1080/23736992.2018.1477047.