Tag Archives: Identity

Foucault and Social Media

Rob Horning of The New Inquiry discusses Foucault and the way we speak, confess and perform on social media.

Sharing can be simply volunteering the self for ridicule, purging, nullification, ritual flaying — self-branding of a different kind. It’s why people sign up for demeaning reality TV shows, as Wayne Koestenbaum suggests in Humiliation. It’s part of why we sign up for Facebook. Moments of humiliation, Koestenbaum notes, “may be execrable and unendurable” but are also “genuine” in a “world that seems increasingly filled with fakeness.” Social media neatly increase that feeling of the world’s phoniness while providing a means for the sort of self-exposure that combats it. As more behavior seems inauthentic and “performative,” we have greater need to expose ourselves and have our own authenticity vindicated through the embarrassment this causes us.

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Snapchat And An Alternative to The Profile

Nathan Jurgenson, a sociologist and one of the most compelling thinkers on social media is also a researcher for Snapchat. In his latest post on the company’s blog, Jurgenson sketches out what Snapchat might become: an alternative to the identity straight jacket of the Facebook profile and permanent social media. As far as Facebook and Google are concerned, profiles are supposed to represent our “true selves,” the totality of our personality. The two force us to use our real names and everything we do and say on their networks is attributed to our identities as if we each have only one persona. It’s no surprise that this view of permanent identity is incredibly self-serving for Facebook and Google’s business. Since most of their revenue comes from advertising, it makes sense that the two would want all the info we type into their networks to be consistent with a Profile. Profiles are the way advertisers view humans. Single, female, in her 20s, likes denim and science fiction ebooks, travels often to South America. But we know from being alive, and from knowing other people intimately, that a person’s identity could never fully fit into rigid categories. As Jurgenson reminds us, our lives are full of revision, playfulness, ambiguity, contradiction, strangeness and discovery. Profiles and permanent social media stifle the ability to create ourselves. What if, instead, things could be different, perhaps temporary?

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Facebook’s New News Feed

In the world according to Facebook we are bits expressing ostentatious enthusiasm or we do not exist. So argues Rob Horning at The New Inquiry.

Facebook is like a television that monitors to see how much you are laughing and changes the channel if it decides you aren’t laughing hard enough. It hopes to engrain in users the idea that if your response to something isn’t recordable, it doesn’t exist, because for Facebook, that is true. Your pleasure is its product, what it wants to sell to marketers, so if you don’t evince it, you are a worthless user wasting Facebook’s server space. In the world according to Facebook, emotional interiority doesn’t exist. Introspection doesn’t exist, and neither does ambivalence. There is only ostentatious enthusiasm or null dormancy.

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Bracing For A Post-Facebook Facebook

How will the company called Facebook continue to grow and innovate as Facebook the social network fades?

John Herrman of BuzzFeed tries to figure it out.

…while the internet moves fast, the world of social networking moves faster. Facebook, once a leader in almost every category it touched, now leads in almost none: it’s not the most exciting picture service, nor is it the next big messaging service, video service, mobile texting service, or news-sharing service. The only thing it definitely is is the leading identity service — something that a lot of sites are trying to take away from it.

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Adrien Chen On Theorizing The Web

Betabeat has a write up of the awesome conference that went down last weekend on internet issues and social media, Theorizing The Web. Gawker writer Adrien Chen has some reflections too.

If you read Nathan Jurgenson’s pieces on Snapchat or Instagram, you see someone who really values and understands the technology but is also highly skeptical and curious about how it really works. It all goes back to the question of control: Are we letting these technologies control us while Silicon Valley billionaires get rich? Or can we maintain our critical facilities and agency, while still taking advantage of social media? Theory can help us address the very real issues about social media without falling into the technophobic “is facebook making us lonely” panic that characterizes so much mainstream discourse around social media and the internet.

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