Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Better Terms for Affinity on Social Networks

It's time to find a better words to name our affinities online, and the crucial differences that make a difference between them, especially to the extent that more and more of our affinities are organized online. "Friends" who are not friends is bad enough, but "Followers" is downright creepy, whether it is meant to construe us as guru-wannabes or as fanatics. As Hannah Arendt worried on a related matter: "It is, I think, a rather sad reflection on the present state of political science that our language does not distinguish between such key terms... all of which refer to distinct phenomena. To use them as synonyms not only indicates a certain deafness to linguistic meanings, which would be serious enough, but has resulted in a kind of blindness with respect to the realities they correspond to."

Commerce, entertainment, education, agitation, organization, identification, dis-identification are facilitated and transformed by online formations in ongoing ways and these affiliative modes function on the basis of different (if interwoven) assumptions and aspirations, the relations they produce differ in substance, in weight, in consequence from one another as well as from the experiences to which they are analogized when we name them "friendship" and "following" and "association" and so on.

Especially material to affiliation are differences in the responsibilities that accrue in them, responsibilities that are not finally reducible to matters of the responsiveness occasioned by them. This is why I am troubled more generally by the way "liking" is now meant to attach promiscuously and indifferently to people, places, things, moments, sensations and how "attachments" are presumed somehow to follow from this bland attentional affect, how a kind of career of "liking" in producing a target-marketable profile comes to stand as well for current personhood.

I joked in Fool Me Tee Vee (more or less summarizing in a sentence my perennial potted lecture for undergraduates on Naomi Klein's NO LOGO) that "Modern advertising began a century ago by deceiving us that there were substantial differences between mass-produced consumer goods according to the brands they bear, and has succeeded by now, a century later, in deceiving us that there are substantial differences between mass-produced consumers according to the brands we buy." Of course, "liking" is not even purchasing, but attentional eddies in the stream of consciousness, an augury of trend, an exploitable data-point, suggestions of suggestability that might yield a purchase, a vote, a workable spin. Whatever else such informational vectors in networked attentional and administrative economies may be, they don't look much like citizens.


jollyspaniard said...

On the subject of Social Networking the big trend of the year is exodus. People may still have active profiles on Facebook but nobody seems to be home and when you log in you get nothing but spam.

This might change if and when we finally do get a working peer to peer social networking solution but I don't see the situation reversing itself on Facebook unless they do a serious about face.

I think Facebook shot themselves in the foot a few updates ago when they stripped away functionality that users were using to protect themselves from spam. Now Facebook is drowning in spam and it's crowded out the content that people actually log in for. People are turning away from Facebook in droves.

Barkeron said...

Before we break out in rejoicing about the demise of the private information-monetizing, privacy-eroding Zuckerbergean Empire, consider there's most likely the next digiploitative huckster lurking around the corner.

Dale Carrico said...

That's for sure. Hell, I'm so old I remember when facebook was geocities.