[iDC] Writing about the sociable web

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Thu Jun 21 13:43:43 EDT 2007

Hi Alex,

I really appreciate that you bring up the issue of social class and 
I'd add gender--difference in general, alterity.

The ideology of most dominant Web 2.0 commentators is build on the logic
of capital as a necessity. The fact that their writing causes interest
mostly in entrepreneurs and business consultants shows that their pro
free-market economics interests are well catered to by this group that
also often aims to teach business how to run a "smooth show," understand
the cultural habits of youth, and still profit nicely.  

Much of the most visible writing about the sociable web reduces
networked publics to their function as consumers, ignoring them in their
role as lovers, parents, citizens, or working poor. In the few cases
that people are addresses in these roles, the commentary comes from a
market perspective. 

The sociable web can do more to represent people's lives and rights and
their wellbeing; it is not merely an engine for wealth production. We
should not give up on fundamental human desires. On the contrary, we
should formulate and collectively demand ethical ground rules of the
social web!! 

I’m not talking about ethics in the sense of religion and also not about
ethics as an overarching set of moral norms that can be arbitrarily
plugged in to manipulate people toward ideological ends. An ethics
rather, that grows out of specific situations and leads to a call to the
right not to be mistreated. What constitutes betrayal or even evil in
relationship to the corporate social operating systems that we partake
in? For me, the impotence of Facebook users with respect to their
communal captivity is deeply puzzling. 

Online social life can also be supported by public, independent
initiatives or hybrid forms. How can we apply the principles of public
broadcast media (i.e. KPFA or even NPR) to social networking? What would
it take to build a public, independent, non-profit MySpace?

I'm sorry that this note lacks examples. I'll also not be able to
respond right away as I'm off for some time in the woods but I look
forward to your response.


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