[iDC] How does social media educate?

mark bartlett mark at globalpostmark.net
Sun Feb 11 23:26:21 EST 2007


Since there is no singular definition of the social, and since it can  
be very difficult to measure the "social" and/or "political" stakes  
in using this troublesome term, short of having to specify a  
definition as preface to each post, (which is a possibility), there  
is no possible way in a forum like iDC to have a coordinated  
discussion about it. it might help a bit, though, if each author  
specified where on the biobody his/her social space lies. It is one  
of the illusions of net culture and "social media " (whatever this  
is) that "virtual" space is non-located. But one cannot get web  
access or an email address in Syria for instance, that isn't a dot- 
gov address and susceptible to surveillance. on the other hand, net  
access is remarkably ubiquitous in Ecuador through net cafe's and  
relatively cheap  ( despite a "dollarized" economy) - a few cents per  
minute. How might this list be inclusive in such directions? My point  
is that one way in which social media educates is by lack of  
disclosure, but leaving important info unmarked.

Perhaps it might be useful here to make some general obvious  
reflections, by way of complicating the concept of the social, for  
the sake of discussion.

it is entirely possible that both Armin's and Danah's posts are  
"reasonable" with respect to the discourses that motivate them. from  
some pov's, corporate-capitalist space is inherently anti-social. Not  
that there are no human-relations there (the sociable vs the  
socialist), but that they do not constitute viable "social"  
relations. To say the obvious, LA bands and communicating teenagers  
do not constitute a "progressive social" consciousness endowed simply  
by virtue of operating in MySpace. It is less obvious and certain to  
claim that in fact, MySpace prevents such progressive values from  
forming. This is, however, a very reasonable question to ask: does it  
reinforce "social" values that are anti-social? Every corporate  
entity is well aware and extraordinarily adept at "social  
engineering," a term "they" pioneered. No doubt Myspace has changed  
some things, but the question is what is the "social" significance of  
that change (which i assume is Armin's point) - change for whom and  
what is its social significance? Similarly though, on the other hand,  
we cannot assume that hackers are necessarily progressive by virtue  
of belonging to "hacker" culture and being opposed to Myspace  
culture. (Danah's point i assume.) What is of great interest is that  
"youth" culture is not monolithic. that some youth oppose others can  
only be a good thing. it's harmony ideology that is to be feared. In  
the same vein, i'm not attempting here to harmonize Armin and Danah's  
points of view. On the contrary, i want to oppose them.

So, perhaps some "discourse specification" - whatever that might be -  
would be a useful roll for the author/thread moderator to somehow  
collectively  perform, a bit more? Maggie Morse did that quite well,  
in summarizing while comparing and offering critical comment, all at  
the same time. [I couldn't read Tiffany's thread.]

i'd like to know where people are from - American-LA, German-London,  
for example. The often insular and/or absent sense of politics in the  
US is no secret, just as non-US loci tend to be far more politically  
engaged. This difference often takes the form of "culture" vs  
"politics"  which i think is also usefully represented in the  
exchange between Danah and Armin. "Cultural politics," is a  
particularly troublesome form of the "social" because it requires a  
great deal of analysis to determine which of the two terms is  
hegemonic, or whether they achieve parity in some way; and because it  
requires great care to specify it's sociopolitical, nationalist,  
identity, etc., contexts.

It is particularly important in "our" era, i think, to realize that  
the cultural politics form of the social is in some cases the only  
option for a politics at all, under some historical/political  
conditions -- (how can one conscience voting for Gore over Bush,  
Kerry over Bush?) -- this may be the case in the US at this moment,  
if politics is measured from the pov of complete cynicism in the face  
of reform movements such as MoveOn, lesser of evil voting, etc.,  
which tend toward further entrenchment of unjust systems that are  
unfixable.  Or from the pov of the absolute disenfranchised in the  
US, from white trash to ghetto youth of every race, to the new class  
of US "refugees" post-Katrina. I'm raising here the stakes of long vs  
short term gain. "Liberalism" or "Progressivism" is not necessarily  
more fruitful, in ideological  and practical terms, than  
"Conservatism." Short term choices can make the long term longer, and  
in fact, history proves, is usually the case. Are  Myspace and Second  
Life pots for boiling frogs? And if they are, are they also pots for  
freeing some frogs? If so, what is the social responsibility of the  
liberated frogs to those "willingly" submitting to their death? THIS  
is a SOCIAL question. It is the question that raises all the  
difficult questions of the ETHICAL, specifically in the face of both  
the political and cultural. I'm not shouting here, only making sure  
the distinctions i'm trying to raise are at least read.

"social" "media" "educates" in every direction. and i think it is  
indisputable to say that the dominant "social" forces determine the  
dominant directions of "social" media. inevitably, "minor" "social"  
forces will arise. it is, however, crucial to differentiate between  
"cyberlibertarianism" and various forms of "liberationist/socialist"  
uses of media. And I think that this distinction is particularly  
necessary in the US and Europe, where the former  
(cyberlibertarianism) is profoundly entrenched in practices and  
ideologies, both conscious and unconscious.

Another way to put this is to pose the problem in terms of this  
opposition: strategies/tactics of politically committed education,  
vs, sociological/culturalist description and mere information  
rendering of the abstract potentials of such education. in other  
words: social action education that aims at producing social change,  
vs, social passivity that aims at social description of educational  

mark, phd
white American-Berkeley/Oakland

On Feb 11, 2007, at 12:40 PM, danah boyd wrote:

> On Feb 11, 2007, at 2:38 AM, Armin Medosch wrote:
>> 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?
> What are you talking about?  How on earth would the practices that  
> have emerged on MySpace not be considered social?  There's no doubt  
> that there's also a commercial component to these systems, but to  
> say that there's no social component to them is preposterous.   
> Every day millions of teenagers login to hang out with their  
> friends, converse, show off, validate one another, and otherwise go  
> about a slew of social practices.  Every day, i talk to teenagers  
> who tell me about all of the different social interactions that get  
> played out across multiple media - mobiles, IM, MySpace, etc.   I  
> would concede that the artifact itself is not inherently social,  
> but as an environment, it is designed to and successfully supports  
> social interaction.
> And you ask how important these systems are?  Have you spent time  
> with American teenagers lately?  Or musicians?  (Or LA scenesters,  
> but that's a different story...)  MySpace has radically altered the  
> social dynamics and information flow amongst these groups (and  
> between bands and fans).  And this is just MySpace.  There are  
> hundreds of these sites that have changed the lives of all  
> different relevant social groups.  Who cares if the industry and  
> media has hyped it and is creating all sorts of funny terms that  
> have become naturalized into the vocabulary of those invested in  
> the systems?  The fact of the matter is that these systems are  
> playing a significant role in society today and it's critical to  
> pay attention to them for exactly that reason.  It seems idiotic to  
> me to only pay attention to the systems that i theoretically  
> value.  This is like saying that pop culture and "low-brow" art  
> should not be studied because the only thing of value is that which  
> has "high-brow" cultural capital.  MySpace is mainstream, like it  
> or not, and thus i think it's *extremely* important.
> danah
> - - - - - - - - - - d a n a h ( d o t ) o r g - - - - - - - - - -
> "taken out of context i must seem so strange"
> musings :: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts
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