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What Is the Social in Social Media?

December 14, 2012

New York city police supply a generator so that victims of hurricane Sandy can charge their cell phones.

Headlines, 2012: “Next time you’re hiring, forget personality tests, just check out the applicant’s Facebook profile instead.” – “Stephanie Watanabe spent nearly four hours Thursday night unfriending about 700 of her Facebook friends—and she isn’t done yet” – “Facebook apology or jail time: Ohio man gets to choose” – “Study: Facebook users getting less friendly” – “Women tend to have stronger feelings regarding who has access to their personal information” (Mary Madden) – “All dressed up and no place to go” (Wall Street Journal) – “I’m making more of an effort to be social these days, because I don’t want to be alone, and I want to meet people” (Cindy Sherman) – “30 percent posted updates that met the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for a symptom of depression, reporting feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, insomnia or sleeping too much, and difficulty concentrating” – Control your patients: “Do you hire someone in the clinic to look at Facebook all day?” Dr. Moreno asked. “That’s not practical and borders on creepy.” – “Hunt for Berlin police officer pictured giving Nazi salute on Facebook” – “15-year-old takes to Facebook to curse and complain about her parents. The disgusted father later blasts her laptop with a gun.”

The use of the word “social” in the context of information technology goes back to the very beginnings of cybernetics. It later pops up in the 1980s context of “groupware.” The recent materialist school of Friedrich Kittler and others dismissed the use of the word “social” as irrelevant fluff—what computers do is calculate, they do not interfere in human relations. Holistic hippies, on the other hand, have ignored this cynical machine knowledge and have advanced a positive, humanistic view that emphasizes computers as tools for personal liberation. This individualistic emphasis on interface design, usability, and so on was initially matched with an interest in the community aspect of computer networking. Before the “dot-com” venture capitalist takeover of the field in the second half of the 1990s, progressive computing was primarily seen as a tool for collaboration among people.

Text and Image via e-flux. Written by Geert Lovink. Continue HERE

Rand Corporation think tank employees brainstorming, 1958. CA, Santa Monica, US. Photo: Leonard Mccombe.

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