[iDC] Writing about the sociable web

lilly nguyen lillynguyen at ucla.edu
Thu Jun 21 13:54:47 EDT 2007

Hi all-

While I wholly agree with Trebor's comments about networked publics,  
I would throw in some caveats and potential barriers to this in that  
while to us, observing the phenomenon these social networking spaces  
appear as publics, I have a strong suspicion that the perceptions as  
individuals experience them and interact in them isn't necessarily  
the case. I think in the case of FB and MySpace, people sign onto  
them not to meet new friends, or to enact their public selves, but in  
fact they do so because they want to "hang out" with their friends.  
In fact, there is a lot of mirroring and replication of offline  
behaviors in these online worlds that make it more conducive to a  
perception of privateness. I think this disconnect between the  
perceptions and the reality of actions is what's really compelling  
about these online SNS. That distinction between private and public  
isn't so clean anymore (was it ever?). What's I find especially  
troubling is that the notion of public that you proposed earlier, in  
relation to public media like KPFK and NPR, is not one that I think  
will happen on social networking sites only because social networking  
sites are essentially ego networks. it's about "me." my profile says  
something about me. my friends tell you something about *me.* which  
is an increasing trend that i don't know will necessarily abate.


Lilly Nguyen
PhD Student, Dept. of Information Studies
lillynguyen at ucla.edu

On Jun 21, 2007, at 10:43 AM, Trebor Scholz wrote:

> 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.
> -Trebor
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