Users as Co-Designers of Software-Based Media: The Co-Construction of Internet Relay Chat

Guillaume Latzko-Toth

Abstract


While it has become commonplace to present users as co-creators or “produsers” of digital media, their participation is generally considered in terms of content production. The case of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) shows that users can be fully involved in the design process, a co-construction in the sense of Science and Technology Studies (STS): a collective, simultaneous, and mutual construction of actors and artifacts. A case study of the early development of two IRC networks sheds light on that process and shows that “ordinary users” managed to invite themselves as co-designers of the socio-technical device. The article concludes by suggesting that IRC openness to user agency is not an intrinsic property of software-based media and has more to do with its architecture and governance structure.

Cet article présente des travaux ayant pris pour objet des situations, des pratiques, des objets et des processus de communication dans les champs scientifique et technique. Il propose ainsi de définir la spécificité de l’approche communicationnelle au sein du domaine « Sciences, technologies, sociétés » (STS). Il insiste sur la teneur critique de cette approche dans sa phase d’émergence au cours des années 1970-1980, et il distingue différents courants de travaux constitutifs de l’approche communicationnelle au sein des STS dans les décennies 1980 et 1990. Il souligne enfin la difficulté d’articuler à la fois l’attention à la singularité des formes, des objets et des situations et la prise en compte des dynamiques spatiotemporelles de grande ampleur qui influencent les enjeux de communication dans le domaine STS.


Keywords


Digital media; Communication technology; Co-construction; Design process; Ordinary user

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