Tag Archives: Philosophy

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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Evgeny Morozov And The Tech Press

Once again, Morozov indicts the tech press. Do we want a horde of gadget reviewers or critical thinkers? Read his “How to Stop a Sharknado” on Internet ideologies, public intellectuals and politics at the German site Zeit Online.

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Epistemology Of Lists

Adam Rothstein has a beautiful exploration of lists, stemming from his childhood love with library card catalogs.

The random idiosyncrasy that such an expansive list allows may have no more critical depth than scanning newspaper headlines, looking for secret messages. But this sort of list is precisely like the written content of the internet. The internet is a series of lists, connected by cross-referenced hyperlinks. Whether one is taking a stroll through Wikipedia, or reading the most compelling links from one’s social media timeline, one is browsing a series of lists. Particular line items expand into full essays, and long reads collapse back into tweets. From the most thoughtful syllabus to the most obnoxious listicle to the strangest permutations of weird twitter, we are browsing a vast meta-card catalog—a veritable list of lists. The nodes of the network jump into line, and we follow it until the tracks fade to scratch marks, which fade to natural erosion, dust swept by the twisting path of the wind. And then we pick up another trail, or we create one ourselves.

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Rubbing On Our Glowing Rectangles: The False Distinction Between “Online” And “The Real”

My post at BuzzFeed.

“The language of offline VS online dominates the way we think of social media and communication. Sociologist Nathan Jurgenson wants us to move beyond it.”

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Facebook And Documentary Vision: Viewing The World As An Always Potential Past…Or As A Snapchat

“The tension between experience for its own sake and experience we pursue just to put on Facebook is reaching its breaking point. That breaking point is called Snapchat.” This begins a sophisticated and accessible essay in The New Inquiry by the sociologist Nathan Jurgenson. Fascinated by photographs and the act of consuming images, Jurgenson discusses how the culture of photography has changed under the ever-presence of social media.

For those who live with status updates, check-ins, likes, retweets, and ubiquitous photography, such an understanding is near inescapable. Social media have invited users to adopt a sort of documentary vision, through which the present is always apprehended as a potential past. This is most triumphantly exemplified by Instagram’s faux-vintage filters.

As documentarians and photographers train their eyes to see the profound in the mundane, or to capture movement and emotion in a still image, professional habits become inescapable ticks. Documentary vision is to gaze at the world always with a picture frame in mind, as if every face, tree, shadow or dinner plate is a potential photograph. If you follow Jurgenson’s description, social media has now burdened us all with documentary vision. The real world is just material for Facebook.

Riffing off his earlier piece on Instragram and the faux-vintage photo (No, just because that filter makes me and my friends look like we are from the 1940s doesn’t make the frame important or worthy of memory), Jurgenson argues that the abundance of our Facebook galleries have lessened the value of the photograph. All the rehearsed posing and desperate retouching coupled with the limitless capacity of smartphone snapping and storing makes our digital museums less memorable, not more. In a culture where everything is seen as a potential, sharable post, smiling for the camera can be exhausting. (Pretend like you are having fun! Cheeeeeeese!)

This is why Snapchat, the app that lets you send temporary photographs, represents a refreshing change up.

Temporary photography is in part a response to social-media users’ feeling saddled with the distraction of documentary vision. It rejects the burden of creating durable proof that you are here and you did that. And because temporary photographs are not made to be collected or archived, they are elusive…By leaving the present where you found it, temporary photographs feel more like life and less like its collection.

Jurgenson goes on to say that temporary photography like Snapchat can actually help bolster the position of traditional photography. Amid the barf-stream of endless “Mimosa Brunch!!!” pics and “Were you in a frat?” bro photos, Snapchat is private and thus a more meaningful affair. It’s deliberately about nowness, not “Can’t wait to post this.” Snapchat’s fleeting impermanence reminds us why we take pictures in the first place.

“The ephemerality sharpens viewers’ focus: Once received, a Snapchat count-down is a kind of time-bomb that demands an urgency of vision, a challenge to exhaust the meaning from the image before the clock runs out. Unlike a paper photo that fades slowly over the years, the temporary photo disappears suddenly. Given only a peek, you look hard.”

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