[iDC] Why Parents Help Children Violate Facebook's 13+ Rule

John Sobol soboltalk at gmail.com
Thu Nov 10 17:03:22 UTC 2011

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 10:24 PM, Mark Andrejevic
<markbandrejevic at gmail.com>wrote:

"What kind of information will be prioritized and made available via the
"social graph" if this is clearly governed by and subordinate to commercial
imperatives? How might a Facebook social graph differ from one that was not
crafted according to commercial imperatives? These are the same questions
we once asked about how commercial imperatives structures the news and
information made available via commercial media outlets. It surely retains
its relevance and urgency in the online context, yet we don't seem to ask
it as much)."

Mark, these are all excellent questions. A few vaguely coherent thoughts in

- re general critiques of advertising and marketing to children, of the
kind that were common a few decades ago but are now almost extinct...yes
how much we have changed! My father was a pioneer in educational television
but also wrote TV series based on GI Joe and Strawberry Shortcake, both
essentially glorified marketing gimmicks, (which he hated but which paid
the bills), and for a while I did both as well, so that tension and
discourse is something I feel I've known my whole life. And although I used
to loathe advertising, and I still cherish any situation without it, I have
also spent a lot of time as an entrepreneur and business consultant and I
have seen just how useful and in some cases necessary it is. It is one of
the most powerful business models we have, for better or worse, often
worse, but still, it has its place. And as that place has grown
exponentially in the past decades we should at least be clear that
protecting kids from marketers is at this point basically non-existent. In
large measure due to the fact that marketers were quickest to understand
that the web is a social medium defined by relationships, and so they have
colonized it very effectively. Much faster than have, for example,
educational institutions or governments. (I would argue that this is
because neither are defined by relationships but rather by monological
literate values that are not compatible with the dialogical web, but that
is my bone and I will not pick it here.) I would consider advocating
reducing the impact of marketing on kids not by ineffectively regulating it
but by building up the relational capabilities of our public sphere online
so as to put the commercial sphere into a more reasonable and productive
social perspective. Right now facebook is dominant in part because there is
such a dearth of leadership and vision in other areas.

- You ask: "What kind of information will be prioritized and made available
via the "social graph" if this is clearly governed by and subordinate to
commercial imperatives?"

As regular readers of my comments here know, I believe we can find some
answers to questions like this by examining the social dynamics of oral
cultures, because they share common dialogical characteristics with digital
cultures. So, for example, in oral cultures, interpersonal encounters are
essential to commerce, as are personal relationships. Talk and transaction
are mutually dependent. It is not the case that one exploits the other but
rather that social and commercial interactions coexist, and coexist
fruitfully. In our western - read: literate - commercial context, most
commercial transactions are anonymous, involving minimal talk and no
meaningful interpersonal relationships. The cashier does not really exist
as a person but as an instrument of an economic system ruled by paper
(cash, inventories, price lists, schedules, etc.) not people. When you buy
something at a store you do not genuinely 'meet' the cashier. But when you
buy something in any oral culture - at a market in rural Thailand or
Morocco or Peru or India - it is exceedingly poor manners to not engage
with the seller as an individual. In many cases, it is required. Things
don't have prices listed on them. You have to ask. You have to bargain or
you are both rude and foolish. You have to chat, taste, joke, look into
each other's eyes. You have to get to know one another. And that's if you
are a stranger! If you are a local, you are buying something from someone
you have purchased from for years, and each transaction is a further
installment of a long-standing relationship. Anyway, as I guess you can
tell, my point is that we lived for countless generations with this
integration of talk and transaction, and we liked it. Now, we live with
anonymous transactions, and we like those. But neither is essentially
better than the other. If the future involves new kinds of socialized
commerce, ones that balance talk and transaction in new ways, we may get to
like those too, and we should not assume that just because commerce is no
longer anonymous that it will be inherently bad. Of course neither is it
inherently good. But it is different from what we know.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/attachments/20111110/1a715d12/attachment.htm 

More information about the iDC mailing list