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Evolutionary dynamics of new media forms: the case of the open mobile web

Ibrus, Indrek (2010) Evolutionary dynamics of new media forms: the case of the open mobile web. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is designed to improve our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of media forms, with a special historical focus on the recent processes of Web and mobile convergence and the early development of the cross-platform Web. It aims to investigate the dynamics that have underpinned the creation, evolution and conventionalisation of new media forms in the open mobile Web following the launch of 3G mobile networks. In theoretical terms the thesis explores the possibilities for the analytical integration of evolutionary approaches that traditionally have shed light on the discrete components of the evolutionary ‘ensemble’ that comprises media’s textual forms, their technologies and organisational systems. Among the theoretical pillars the study builds on is, first, the cultural semiotic approach (Lotman) that is utilised for interpreting the textual dynamics constituting the form evolution. Second, evolutionary economics (Schumpeter, Freeman and others) is included for interpreting the market dynamics that condition the formation of the media industries. Third, systems theoretical sociology (Luhmann) is deployed in order to understand the broader dynamics of social organisation in late modernism. The integration of these approaches provides the conceptual framework that focuses on the following phenomena: dialogic interchange among industry sub-systems as enabling innovations and the emergence of new sub-systems; the self-organisation of the sub-systems in the contingent environment; the role of memory and systemic ‘path-dependencies’ in guiding the processes of self-organisation; and the nature of the power relations that shape the dialogic processes. The empirical study focuses on textual as well as organisational developments. The semiotic analysis of mobile websites reveals the intertextual relations of the new forms with other media domains, especially the desktop Web. The interviews with representatives of industry stakeholders provide insights into the dialogic practices between the parties engaged in designing the mobile Web, and how, via these practices, the new platform, its media forms and institutional structures were shaped. The findings point to the historical formation of two main industry sub-systems – ‘infrastructure enablers’ and content providers – with different preferred alternatives for the design of the cross-platform Web. The thesis demonstrates how the formation of these groups was conditioned by their systemic path-dependencies, but also by the mesh of dialogic relationships among them and by the resulting changes in the discursive constellations framing the organisation of the industry and the norms for its media forms. The study points to the first signs of the historically momentous emancipation of the mobile Webmedia forms, their shaking free of path-dependency on the desktop Web.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2010 Indrek Ibrus
Library of Congress subject classification: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Mansell, Robin

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