Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Social experiences (30 April 2010)

More about social media. a post by Steven Hodson (via TMN) makes several good points about social media: it redefines privacy for the benefit of commercial entities that will likely ramp up their marketing efforts to persuade us how great the new publicity is for us. At the same time, the constant flow of information devalues each individual piece of information. We find out so much that it all seems sort of beside the point to us -- unless we automate its integration into our lives, in which case we surrender an aspect of our autonomy. Hodson writes:
the real value for all this information is to those whose jobs it is to convince us that privacy has changed, that we are social, that we all need to be a part of some larger social experience.
The larger social experience being promised is the same sort of thing reality TV models for us -- the fantasy of fame and of some kind of general relevance, at the expense of the humdrum social relations with a sensibly small circle of friends. Constantly flooding the zone with self-disclosure allows us to believe others are watching; the responses these disclosures prompt almost seem incidental. But admittedly, I have never been able to wholeheartedly commit to social media to see what it really feels like to have people respond. (Given my own pathologies, I am sure I would feel embarrassed. So take what I say about social media with a grain of salt.)

The minute that sociality is transformed into information (made into data), it ceases to be social behavior as it has been traditionally understood. Not a new complaint, I know, but one that continues to become more and more urgent. The fabric of social experience was once defined by the way it eludes quantification; now it seems quantification is the prerequisite, has become the medium for what passes for friendship.

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