‘Subjectivation’ and social media

A great post on Foucault’s panopticon, subjectivation and social media via Tim Rayner.

There is a self-reflexive structure to sharing content on Facebook or Twitter. Just as actors on stage know that they are being watched by the audience and tailor their behaviour to find the best effect, effective use of social media implies selecting and framing content with a view to pleasing and/or impressing a certain crowd. We may not intend to do this but it is essential to doing it well.

This process of ‘subjectivation’ – a self-reflexive subject-building not at all dissimilar to Goffman’s “dramaturgical approach” – sheds light on a host of social media quandaries. For starters, it complicates the notion of information sharing as something pure or distinct from affect.

I got to thinking about this after reading some back-and-forths over the common Twitter disclaimer of “Retweets do not equal endorsements.” This disclaimer has been called into question by legal experts. But beyond questions of law, there’s that little voice in the back of our heads before we push the “tweet” button – “Am I going to look stupid for tweeting/retweeting this?” There’s more to this self-editing than concerns for truth and fact. It also points to the suspension of subjectivation as a problematic in information ecosystems.

We implicitly recognize that we are inextricably linked in myriad ways to the links we share.


Twitter as social media’s ‘degree zero’

A few rules for the Twitterati, thanks to ReadWriteWeb.

I was kind of blown away by the mention of SocialFlow, which will help maximize the chances of your tweet getting noticed or retweeted. This idea of monitoring conversations among your Twitter followers and then auto-launching your tweet into the fray breaks down the notion of conversation. You are optimizing your chances of being heard, yet in a way you aren’t responding to anyone. You’re kind of a canned commentator. This is more about getting heard than hearing.

Twitter kind of strikes me as social media stripped bare, and I think that allows us to learn a lot from it. It has three primary uses: Conversation, advertising and mobilizing links. If you combine the three, you have social media – and the Internet, for that matter – in a nutshell.