[iDC] How does social media educate?

Armin Medosch armin at easynet.co.uk
Sun Feb 11 05:38:06 EST 2007


first of all, when I follow, loosely, I must admit, this debate here
about social media an interview comes to my mind which I recently did
with a young hacker. he said, haveing looked at myspace et al, he came
to the conclusion that whoever called those environments 'social' must
have a very different idea from his about what is 'social'.

so why do eminent scholars and digital media experts on this list buy
into the social media hype? is it because big capital and mainstream
media has developed a couple of years ago the notion of web 2.0? and now
we are forced to believe that those things are important? how important
are they really? I mean, apart from some of those platforms having been
fetched by big companies for billions, how many users do they really
have, how sustained is their usage? are those branded platforms for user
generated content really an indicator of a paradigm shift? the net is
still there and is still much bigger than rupert murdoch or myspace or
even google. some empirical data would really help to contextualize such
a discussion. 

secondly, maybe there are other types of youth out there who are just
forming their local indymedia branch, installing their own drupal or
wordpress and customizing it and so on. why not talk about them? why not
talk about the software platforms used by free online communities and
socially activist projects rather than this overhyped culture of the
lonely self looking for bu/oddies online to mate with?      

and another point, with myspace and flickr and all this stuff, once more
commercial projects are stealing the show, when actually most of these
concepts were invented and implemented first by the net culture of the
1990ies, which in turn, is based on the hacker culture of the early
internet and bbs systems. big anti-social media wont acknowledge such
roots because then they would have to recognize that a non-or
anti-commercial net culture exists and that maybe it was or even still
is the silent majority of the net, forming many smaller clusters and
communicatoin islands away from the bright spotlight of the madness of
modern media and writing code for open source platforms which then gets
appropriated by more commercially minded youngesters who invent the next

i sometimes these days feel like living in a parallel world, of course
there are many parallel worlds, but what I am coming at in particular is
this split between the sort of 'public sphere' and 'public
opinion' (there are not enough inverted komas to signify my level of
disdain of what this nowaday means) created by mainstream media and what
it creates attention for and the world of open source culture. In one
world people are really gross, only care for themselves and a narrowly
defined type of 'friendship' and sociality; their main goals are to get
rich quick and/or become a celebrity; in order to achieve this you have
to be really competitive and fuck everyone else over. In the other world
people are involved in an exchange economy, often based on a friendly
competition; they care for each other and the liveability of the wider
world. Incidentially, or not, on the BBC or Sky Television we never hear
about this other world. It is almost completely blanked out. Since the
Guardian changed the name of its 'Online' section to 'technoloy' even
there we read only about new gadgets and ego shooters. It is strange how
capitalist media manage to blank out everything that does not fit into
its concept. 

as critical intellectuals we should be careful what we pay attention to.
Maybe it would be better to nurture real culture rather than discuss the
anti-social media phenomenon endlessly, especially in a context where
education itself has become commercialized and there is a very direct
pressure on educators to focus on things relevant to the 'industry'.
more about the latter maybe at another time

each one teach one 

On Fri, 2007-02-09 at 23:06 -0500, Trebor Scholz wrote:
> The question of context, which Danah raised, is important. If a teenager writes on MySpace she speaks to her friends and not to a potential employer. That is often forgotten when
> people read MySpace pages. All topical mailing lists with large subscriber numbers have an aspect of professional visibility that is distinctly different to friends-of-friends
> environments. In MySpace teens speak for the very most part to their friends. That is obviously a completely different context than speaking to a large group of people (most of
> whom one does not know). 
> The point is not that professional discourse equals closed-minded conservatism. (Where did those who pose as radical anti-academics get their formal education, which now
> privileges them to this position?) What matters is that different contexts ask for different speech; it is crucial to understand who is addressed in the framework of a social networking
> site, for example. Professional language has many often-discussed limitations and advantages. I'd not want to "talk shit" on a mailing list (as Danah put it) but on MySpace (where i
> talk to my friends) that's fine. It's not the same to chat in the pub or talk to a group of a thousand invisible people.
> The cyber-archipelagos or ego-islands or cyber-cocoons or whatever you want to call it-- that are based on special interests and exclude difference (the "haters") are not only specific
> to social networking sites. They emerged all over the sociable web. (Just think of Robert Putnam who was thrown out of a chat room about a particular model of BMW as being
> "off-topic" when he wanted to talk about BMWs in general.) 
> Many of the questions that we raised in this thread about sociable web media and education (social networking sites, educational resources delivered through mobile phones, virtual
> worlds, new scholarship and emerging forms of publication, massively multiplayer educational gaming and user-generated content) were also cohesively addressed in NMC's Horizon
> 2007 report. 
> http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2007_Horizon_Report.pdf (Thanks to Geert for the link). 
> I'm curious about Danah's suggestion that  "What I think changed has more to do with social organization in networked public life." Danah, you say: "I don't think
> that the shift is about becoming social." You do point to the history of online group formation (a shift from interest group to ego-type "friend" networks) and agree that they enabled
> sociality. But you say - "what has changed has more to do with social organization in networked public life." Well, there is a huge step in the scale of networked sociality. That, in
> fact, is new and that is why I'd call what happens now a "social turn." You, when I understand that correctly, emphasize the shift from clustering around interests to crowding in
> groups of "friends." You complicate the term friend, of course ("friend"), but even American notions of friendship, which are really more about weak ties, don't really describe the
> arbitrary looseness of these relationships. Remember Zefrank's rants about "small worlds"? (http://www.zefrank.com/smallworld/) 
> What is portrayed as "friends" is really more often than not, an interest group. I may call people in my del.icio.us network, "my friends," instead of the silly "fan" language Joshua
> put there. But the Del.icio.us Network is really a loose interest group. And arguably, also in many larger mailing lists subscribers are grouped around their interests rather than their
> friendships. (In Myspace that's a different story.)    
> And in response to Tobias, yes, I do think that one reason people take to the web is the vanishing of the public sphere. I use Putnam's "Bowling Alone," however problematic it may
> be, to demonstrate the decline of civic participation in the US, and then show the “massification” of networked sociality.  
> Trebor
> Technology and the changing face of relationships
> http://www.blogherald.com/2007/01/16/technology-and-the-changing-face-of-relationships/
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