Tag Archives: Sociology

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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LinkedIn’s New Network for Teens Is a Wasted Opportunity

My essay at The New Republic

As scholars of education Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson have argued, the kind of behavior LinkedIn asks students to engage in—demonstrating their employability and admissions worthiness in contrast to their peers—exacerbates the inequality faced by students in low income households. The admissions process clearly favors students with the most polished, presentable resumes. LinkedIn mimics the admissions logic compelling students to look good on paper—the same logic that often confuses privilege with accomplishment and rewards achievements that only financial privilege can bring.

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Snapchat Stories

From the Snapchat blog: “Snapchat Stories add Snaps together to create a narrative. When you add a Snap to your Story it lives for 24 hours before it disappears, making room for the new. Your Story always plays forward, because it makes sense to share moments in the order you experience them.”

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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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Gawker’s Kinja

Nick Bilton of the New York Times provides an informative summary and update on Gawker’s Kinja, a platform that intends to change the way comments work on web sites.

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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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The Power Of Black Twitter

When Juror B37 of the George Zimmerman trial gestured toward a book deal chronicling her and her husband’s life during jury service, a vocal segment of Twitter users erupted in protest. (Their argument being the writer would essentially profit from grave injustice and loss of life.) The publisher, feeling the pressure, nixed the book deal. Shani O. Hilton of BuzzFeed writes about the powerful influence of what she calls “Black Twitter,” –the thousands of highly active black twitter users who like to talk about race and current events and, as this episode indicates, are at the cutting edge of Web culture.

Last night Black Twitter killed a George Zimmerman trial juror’s book deal. But that’s not a surprise: The hive has become a swarm. It’s diffuse, powerful, and all around you.

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The Future of Search

“Answer, converse, anticipate,” are the verbs Nathaniel Mott uses to describe Google’s newest search venture. Writing at PandoDaily, Mott explains the thrust of Google’s opening keynote during the 1st day of its I/O conference. The annual summit, geared towards developers, featured the company’s newest innovations.

With “Knowledge Graph” the search giant “will begin to answer Google users’ questions before they ask them.”

Mott continues:

Voice-activated search coming to the Chrome browser is perhaps the most interesting of today’s search-related announcements. Google Now — or some version of it, anyway — has been rumored to be coming to desktop computers for months, and its addition to Chrome will aid Google’s attempts to become a ubiquitous aspect of users’ lives.

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Of Mice And Men And Chance: Cognititve Development And Fate

In the biological conception of nature and nurture, we tend to think that the dueling forces of genetics and environment shape and predict one’s personality. In a new study involving 40 genetically identical mice–all exposed to the same precisely controlled and measured environment–researchers are revealing the hidden importance of random chance on brain growth.

Writing on the New Yorker’s Elements blog, Gary Marcus explains the findings of the experiment:

Kempermann’s new mouse study shows that chance plays a role in cognitive development. For reasons as yet unknown, possibly having to do with intrauterine environments or randomness in the process by which individual genes are switched on, some mice became more active, others more passive; those that explored to a greater degree subsequently grew more neurons in their hippocampus. In an environment that rewards exploration, the more active mice would presumably thrive; with a simple follow-up it should be possible to prove that luck can mediate success in a carefully controlled environment.

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