Walled Garden: Communities and Networks post Web 2.0 (part 1)

Walled Garden

Walled Garden is an international working conference that took place in the Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam on the 20th and 21st of November 2008. The Digital Methods Initiative participated in the session titled Mapping the Walled Gardens: Digital methods for researching and visualizing networks on the Web, moderated by Sabine Niederer and Richard Rogers.

“What happens when we have friended our old friends on MySpace and have written professional testimonials on LinkedIn, have scrobbled our entire music libraries on last.fm and have written on many walls on Facebook? Can networks be open, sustainable and valuable? Or does a network only work when it’s a walled garden?” (Sabine Niederer, Institute of Network Cultures)

The following blog post consists of notes from our discussions during day one.

The ontology of walled gardens
What are the features of the spaces we consider to be walled gardens?

  • They have entrances and exits, these may or may not be protected. You come inside which has a gardener’s mentality, the gardeners tend the content to make sure there are no weeds and trash. These tenders of the walled gardens may be people (moderators) or software (bots/limited fields/frameworks).
  • The control is at the gate (this is an ideal/typical situation). A walled garden is considered to be a secure space or a safe haven. At the same time they give you a sense of danger and fear when you leave… “are you sure you want to leave?”
  • Prevent cross-fertilization, every walled garden has a template/layout.

Walled Garden associations
Offline equivalents of the walled garden may be the gated communities and planned towns. Where is the term used? When you apply it to the web it’s an industry term located in the field of consumer electronics and online platforms.

Simple analysis: which of these platforms is mostly associated with the term walled garden? For example: Query “Walled garden” + Facebook

99,900 Facebook
53,300 AOL
50,700 MySpace
18,700 LinkedIn

The dominant walled garden type is semi-permeable. What’s permeable and what’s not? The share or ShareThis button seems to be about planting your seeds (content) somewhere else. The future of the walled garden is to expand it and to allow for the space itself to be able to grow. APIs and widgets allow the planting of seeds outside the garden. What happens to the walled gardens? Can we see them as some kind of irrigation system? APIs are part of the ecosystem of the walled garden, however these biotropes are (tightly) controlled ecosystems. In these mini ecosystems. walled gardens need to be fed.

How does a core come into being these days? How do they emerge and how are they sustained? How can we measure the sustainability of a walled garden? In order to sustain itself it needs to be personalized. In the case of the Obama websites and web 2.0 services the distance is shortening because of the quantity of links.

The walled garden is creating the sense/appearance of safety with personal privacy settings. What are the ideal settings for your feeling private and how would one simulate that? Even though walled gardens give the sense of safety, that nothing will escape we can see leaky databodies. Idea: create a leaky profile event alert. This idea has been realized in a project titled the Leaky Garden Project, for more info see Erik Borra’s post on leakygarden.net: data ‘leakage’ of web2.0 services.

How many people lock their accounts? How do the social networking sites position themselves, or how are they being positioned in the privacy debate? In the case of politics and activism all protest activity is about its own management. This is why most of the action is about the inside, about the “walled gardenness”. A lot of the activism itself thus also takes place within the walled garden itself that is being critiqued.

Walled Garden

At the end of day one we came up with three potential projects, dealing with the following topics/questions:

  1. Term association/why.
  2. State of the art of walled gardens with its semi-permeability and root system and feeds.
  3. The privacy. Which space gives the sense of the most safety and the complexity of privacy.

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