[iDC] How does social media educate?

John Hopkins jhopkins at neoscenes.net
Mon Feb 12 16:29:36 EST 2007

>I guess it makes sense to begin by asking: What is 'social media'? 
>However, your questions and observations are already suggesting that 
>it might not be that easy to provide an answer.

All media is social -- media is 'that which carries between' people. 
Media without social context is the sound of one hand clapping.

Mediation is the process of the (attenuated) movement of energies 
between the Self and the Other.

Thus, there is an infinite range of possible ways to transfer energy.

Technological systems are introduced to bind individuals into a 
collective structure of relationship with the many others who 
surround them -- the accumulated social system.  From the set 
including all the possible ways of interaction/energy exchange, these 
social systems and structures prescribe a limited subset of pathways 
for interactions  (read: protocols, styles, conventions, fashions, 
languages for example).  Each system or structure allows certain 
forms of interaction and restricts other forms -- a phone, for 
example, allows the transfer of  attenuated sonic energy, but does 
not allow touch to be transferred.  By definition, then, 
technological intervention which IS the mediative carrier across the 
abyss between the self and the Other -- and it is always reductive, 
exclusive, limited, limiting, and imperfect.

The seed of alienation is in that imperfection-of-means to bridge the 
gap between the Self and the Other.

If we have no energized interaction with the Other, we are lost in 
complete and spirit-less alienation as we make our way through life.

The introduction of (imperfect) mediative carriers into the exchange 
between the Self and the Other by the social system in which they are 
embedded causes a more or less significant deflection of possible 
energy transfer between the two.  That deflected energy is deflected 
into the social system itself.  The social system directly benefits 
from more energy being routed away from the two individual (routed 
away from the primary connection of human-to-human).  Each 'higher' 
technology represents a increasingly complex pathway by which the 
individual's energy is siphoned off into the social system.  This 
because the greater the degree of organization necessary to produce a 
'higher' technology requires a greater amount of energy (for example, 
the infrastructure necessary to produce paper vs producing 
computers).   Participating in the social system necessary to produce 
computers does 'require' that you give a certain amount of your 
life-energy into the maintenance of that organized system of 
production.  You have to work a certain number of hours of your 
lifetime, losing them for ever, in order to make enough money to have 
a phone to call your friends.   What if you spent the time with your 
friends to begin with, talking with, sharing with them, those 
original life times.  Then you would not need to leave them in order 
to work in order to have a phone in order to call them and engage in 
a more highly attenuated exchange with them.  The social system 
requires the former condition if we are to participate in the 
accumulated rewards of that system.

I can think of no other 'explanation' to the alienation and dis-ease 
I see in people in the developed world other than the increasing 
degrees of attenuation to human relationship which occurs at each 
juncture of 'higher' technological implementation.  Nor can I explain 
the greater and greater indexes of control which dominate our 
existence in the social system that produces the mediative 
technologies except that we are giving more and more of our energies 
into that social system, surrendering that life-energy to the 
collective use of the system -- to use as it wishes -- to collect and 
project in the process of insuring its continued existence (which 
means securing the need for the individual to continue to give energy 
into the system, and not to the Other).

I can speak to Danah's comments on a personal anecdotal level and a 
professional level, having several teen-age/early 20's relatives in 
California who I spend significant time with both f2f and virtually. 
Not to mention the hundreds of university students interacted with 
over several tens of countries and cultures and 20 years. Yes, kids 
use the technologies, but also, yes, those same kids (in the case of 
certain demographics in California), live in suburban "neighborhoods" 
completely bereft of f2f possibilities.  Neighbors seldom communicate 
f2f on the street because everyone is in cars, and more often than 
not, "neighbors" don't have even marginal information who is actually 
living next door.  Of course kids meet at school, but school is a 
drive away, and until a student has a license to drive, isolation is 
complete -- to be caught riding a bike to a friend's house is to 
admit, shamefully, that there is no car available for use.  Attentive 
interaction is rare.  As the social system draws off the energy 
expended into these social mediative systems, there is less focus on 
any face-to-face interaction.  And, consequently, less ability to 
relate in any way but highly mediated forms of interaction (i.e., 
going to the movies, watching teevee together, shopping together, 
IM-ing, texting, phoning, driving, and on and on...)  I do see Fear 
when a f2f interaction with an unknown Other and with unknown 
outcomes ensues.  It's much easier to be in deflected situations... 
And it is exactly that same fear which is a convenient instrument of 
control in all social systems bent on dominance.

And to assume that one can live life without the skills and 
challenges of face-to-face is an assumption I refuse to make about 
human existence in this world.

A police state is that state which successfully deflects to itself, 
harnesses via control of the mediative carriers, the bulk of this 
energy exchange between individuals in that particular social system. 
The success of a system like the Stasi had in place in Eastern 
Germany -- where the number of informants began to rival the number 
of those under observation -- a situation which effectively shut down 
any direct person-to-person exchange, leaving all energy to the 
social system to re-express as IT liked.  In that case, to extend its 
command-and-control over the individuals in the system in a 
lizard-eating-tail unsustainable system.  Eventually destroying the 
very people who it depended on for survival -- because in the end, 
that kind of social system is about stasis and death, and it cannot 
renew itself to deal with the contingencies of the dominant principle 
of Life which is change...

(note that to use the phrase 'social system' is meant to suggest that 
there are a multiplicity of levels on which the circumscribed actions 
operate, as social energy concentrations are fluid and scaleable -- 
anything which gathers attention gathers our life energy.  Anything 
you look at changes you, forever.

And to the original question of the subject line -- social 
media(tive) carriers do educate -- by prescribing the pathways of 
interaction -- if you choose not to accept the pathway, you are cut 
out of the social system, period.  Nice choice for a teenager, eh? 
Do it OUR way or else...

Systems like MySpace and others are not leading the way, "radically 
altering the social dynamics," they are temporary (and literally 
reactionary!) niches of narrow possibility in an evolving system 
which ultimately seeks and wants to draw energy to itself for its own 
survival, not for the good of individual souls or their immediate 
local situation.

Personally, I'm not interested in talking about "the next best thing 
to being there* without deepening my students awareness of what being 
there is about -- and I find that awareness is draining away in the 
face of ever-greater socially applied mediation...

Having just undergone the intense and long-term trauma of a major 
accident, surgery, and physical rehabilitation, I can say that my 
beautiful and highly developed and globally extended network was 
little help at all.  It was the few humans who were in my immediate 
vicinity who, lliterally, carried me through.

Observations written on the Leicester-London train.

And looking forward to a f2f with Armin on Wednesday.

I would be interested if anyone might provide an example of a 
technological / mediative carrier which was not produced within a 
social system (i.e., used ultimately to 'allow' exchange between the 
self and the other or to facilitate the survival of the social 

* telephone commercial slogan

tech-no-mad, on the road again -- london, england
the travelog: http://neoscenes.net/travelog/weblog.php
new sonic work: http://neoscenes.net/aud-vid/audio/drift.html
email: jhopkins at commspeed.net; jhopkins at tech-no-mad.net; hopkins at isnm.de

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