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My dissertation looks at how people use social media to boost their social status.
When social media technologies, or "Web 2.0," emerged, scholars and technologists hailed them as a new era of participatory, egalitarian culture. This dissertation examines three status-seeking techniques enabled by social media-micro-celebrity, self-branding, and life-streaming-to provide an alternate view. I argue that Web 2.0 originated in the Northern California technology community, influenced both by counter-cultural movements which positioned new media as a solution to structural deficits of government, business, and mass culture, and the Silicon Valley tradition of entrepreneurial capitalism used as a model for neoliberal development world-wide. These status-seeking techniques constitute technologies of subjectivity which encourage people to apply free-market principles to the organization of social life. Drawing from discourses of celebrity, branding, and public relations, I describe three self-presentation strategies people adopt within social media applications to gain status, attention and visibility.
Based on fieldwork in the San Francisco technology scene from 2006-2009, I identify and describe these status-seeking techniques, how they are experienced, and their implications. Micro-celebrity involves creating a persona, performing intimate connections to create the illusion of closeness, acknowledging an audience and viewing them as fans, and using strategic reveal of information to maintain interest. Lifestreaming is the process of tracking and digitizing personal information and broadcasting it to a networked audience, creating a digital portrait of one's actions and thoughts. In a group of lifestreamers, the digital instantiation of personal information through social media creates a rich backdrop of social information to be scrutinized. Self-branding is the strategic creation of identity to be promoted and sold for enterprise purposes, promoted by self-help gurus and career strategists. These self-presentation strategies involve the creation of an edited self that can be safely viewed by a networked audience consisting of friends, family members, and co-workers. This self requires constant self-surveillance and monitoring and has real emotional affects, which constitute immaterial emotional labor.
Social media is thus undergirded by the neoliberal values of the Northern San Francisco tech scene. I argue that the prevalent myths of entrepreneurship and meritocracy are deeply gendered and contribute to a systematic devaluation of women's experiences, further undermining claims of egalitarianism and democracy.
PDF [2.3 MB]
Alice Marwick - Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity & Self-Branding in Web 2.0
I’m teaching a new class at Fordham called “Social Media.” I spent a ton of time trying to figure out what was most important to cover, and ultimately I could probably teach a 2-year class on the subject. Here’s what I came up with (with class policies, grading rubics, etc. snipped):
Social Media | COMM 3307
Class blog: http://socialmedia3307.tumblr.com/
This class examines the relationship between society and the current crop of computer-mediated communication technologies known as “social media,” including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. These technologies are often regarded with fear or awe; the purpose of this class is to break down the mythologies of social media and develop methods of analysis and critical understanding. To do this, we will draw from a broad range of social theory including science and technology studies (STS), communication theory, linguistics, cultural studies, and media anthropology to critically evaluate the impact of social media on relationships, activism, branding, politics, news media, and identity. We will focus on the “sociotechnical,” or the relationship between the technical affordances of a website/technology and the social norms of a user community, and how to use this to understand emerging technologies (and social media that doesn’t exist yet!). Students will also gain basic practical social media skills: understanding the landscape, learning “best practices,” and using different social media technologies throughout the class to create and propagate content.
SCHEDULE OF CLASSES, READINGS, AND ASSIGNMENTS
Classes are subject to change based on the interests of class and direction in which class proceeds. Please make yourself aware of all changes to the schedule. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to learn of any changes.
Readings and other assignments are due on the date listed.
Date Topic (reading due by class date)
Friday 8/31 Introductions & Course Overview
What is social media?
Tuesday 9/4 Key Concepts
Nancy Baym “New Forms of Personal Connection” Chapter 1
Terms: interactivity, temporal structure, social cues, storage, replicability, reach, mobility
Blog Assignment: Set up Tumblr account. Post an example for one of the key terms. Include a photo, video or audio file, and a link.
Friday 9/7 Social Media in Context
Tom Standage, “Codes, Hackers and Cheats” and “Love over the Wires” (from The Victorian Internet)
Hafner & Lyon, “Email” (from When Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet)
What’s similar about these previous forms of media? What’s different?
Blog Assignment: Pick a pre-web technology and compare it to one of your favorite websites, apps, or games (e.g. record player vs. Spotify). Hint: What’s the difference between the internet and the web?
Tuesday 9/11 History of Social Media
Baron, “Language Online: The Basics” (from Always On)
Boyd & Ellison, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship”
Terms: Asynchronous, synchronous, one-to-one, one-to-many, bi-directional, uni-directional. Take note of the different technologies mentioned in these chapters; you will be seeing them again.
Friday 9/14 Introducing Theory
Gillespie, “The Stories Digital Tools Tell”
Baym Chapter 2, “Making New Media Make Sense”
Terms: Technological Determinism, social construction of technology, social Shaping, utopian, dystopian, interface
How are new technologies represented in the media?
Blog assignment: Pick a news story about social media and post it. Analyze whether you think the claims and evidence presented in the story are correct.
Examples: NYT, Washington Post
Tuesday 9/18 Computer-Mediated Communication
Baym, Chapter 3, “Communication in Digital Spaces”
Baron, Chapter 4, “Are Instant Messages Speech?”
Terms: reduced social cues, social presence theory, media richness theory, flaming, immediacy cues, mixed modality, intonation unit, conversational scaffolding, utterance break
Blog Assignment: Pick a politician’s Twitter account. Analyze his or her speech. What features of CMC does he/she show, or not? Compare this with the account of a musician or celebrity like @kimkardashian or @rihanna.
Tip: Find your hometown Senator or Representative: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/
Friday 9/21 Affordances
Norman “The Psychopathy of Everyday Things”
Latour, “Where are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts”
Terms: Affordance, delegation, anthropomorphism, re-inscription
What is an affordance?
How does this play into social construction or technological determinism?
Blog post: Go back to your politician’s Twitter account. What affordances does Twitter have? How does the politician use them (or not)?
Note: In order to vote in the Presidential election in NYC, you must be registered 25 days before the election. This weekend is a great time to sign up! Register in NY (if you choose to vote in your home state, check http://www.longdistancevoter.org to find out how to cast an absentee ballot, and http://www.countmore.org to decide whether to vote there or in NYC. Many states have registration deadlines for the beginning of October).
Tuesday 9/25 Online Communities
Baym, Chapter 4, “Communities and Networks”
Ellison, N. Steinfield, C. & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook ‘friends’: Exploring the relationship between college students’ use of online social networks and social capital.
Terms: community, speech community, norms, social capital, bonding capital, bridging capital, maintained capital, network support, emotional support, esteem support, informational support, networked individualism
Blog Assignment: Pick an online site that you participate in (something smaller than “Facebook” or “Twitter,” e.g. a particular Facebook community, or a fan forum for a sports team). Do you consider it a “community”? Why or why not?
Friday 9/28 Norms
Garfinkel, “Studies of the Routine Grounds of Everyday Activities” (warning: This is a difficult piece. Concentrate on the experiments and how Garfinkel’s students responded to them.)
Marwick & Ellison, “There Isn’t Wifi in Heaven!” Negotiating Visibility on Facebook Memorial Pages
Sandvig, “Social Media Breaching Experiments”
Terms: social norms, context collapse, impression management, persistence, scalability, searchability
Blog Assignment: Return to the online site you participate in. What are its norms? Talk about one or two in a short post.
Tuesday 10/2 Online Identity
Baym Chapter 5, “New Relationships, New Selves”
Mendelson and Papacharissi, “Look at Us: Collective Narcissism in College Student Facebook Photo Galleries”
Terms: Disembodied identities, identity cues, self-presentation
Assignment #1 due: Social Media Breaching Experiments
Friday 10/5 Aspects of Identity
Marwick, “Gender, Sexuality and Social Media”
Nakamura, “Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet”
Manjoo, “How Black People Use Twitter”
Carter, “A Response to Farheed Manjoo’s “How Black People Use Twitter”
Nakamura, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft”
Terms: disembodiment hypothesis, cyborg feminism, oversharing, otherness, identity tourism, passing
Last day for designating a course Pass/Fail
Blog Assignment: Find a news article on a popular site like CNN.com or HuffingtonPost.com that deals with gender, race, sexuality, class, nationality, religion, or another aspect of identity. Read and analyze the comments—what views are expressed? How do commenters respond to each other? Do you think this is different from face-to-face conversations? Why?
Tuesday 10/9 Relationships
Baym, Chapter 6, “Digital Media in Relational Development and Maintenance”
Gershon, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” (from Breakup 2.0)
Terms: early idealization, relational development, relational maintenance, “friending,” idioms of practice, media ideologies, second-order information
Find/form midterm study groups (no blog assignment)
Friday 10/12 Midterm
Tuesday 10/16 Creativity and Culture
Shirky, “Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus” (from Cognitive Surplus)
Davidson, “The Language of Internet Memes”
Schifman, “Anatomy of a YouTube Meme”
Blog assignment: Peruse knowyourmeme.com’s Meme Database for a half hour or so. Pick a meme (either one you found there or one you were previously familiar with) and write a quick analysis of what the meme involves.
Friday 10/19 NO CLASS – ALICE AT CONFERENCE
Watch We Live in Public (Ondi Timoner, 2009) 90 mins. This movie is available on Netflix (DVD only, not Instant), Hulu Plus, Amazon Video On-Demand ($3.99) and on reserve at Walsh library. I highly encourage using the blog to coordinate viewing parties. (Fun!!!) Note that having technical difficulties is NOT an excuse for not seeing it, so don’t wait until Sunday night to try accessing the movie.
Blog assignment: Movie review (feel free to give a grade or a star rating). (due Monday 10/22 at 5pm)
Activism, Politics & News
Tuesday 10/23 What was the role of Twitter in the Arab Spring?
Grossman, “Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement”
Morozov, “The Google Doctrine” (from The Net Delusion)
Doctorow, “We Need a Serious Critique of Net Activism”
Stepanova, “The Role of Information Communication Technologies in the Arab Spring”
Blog Assignment: What’s your perspective? How do the theories of technology we discussed earlier in the semester (technological determinism, social shaping of technology, utopian/dystopian, etc.) play into these accounts?
Friday 10/26 How has social media changed online news?
Rosen, J. “The People Formerly Known as the Audience”
Starr, “Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption)”
Braun & Gillespie, “Hosting the public discourse, hosting the public: When online news and social media converge.”
Guest Speaker: Joe Weisenthal, Editor, BusinessInsider.com
Peruse BusinessInsider.com and write a list of questions for Joe. Bring them to class. More about Mr. Weisenthal: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/joe-weisenthal-vs-the-24-hour-news-cycle.html?pagewanted=all
Tuesday 10/30 What impact has social media had on civic engagement?
Knight Foundation, “What are the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy?”
Johnson et. al, “United We Stand? Online Social Network Sites & Civic Engagement”
Claire Cain Miller, “How Obama’s Internet Campaign Changed Politics”
Friday 11/2 Branding
Clemons, “The complex problem of monetizing virtual electronic social networks.”
Ivey, “Domino’s Pizza Case Study.”
Dash, “How to Fix Popchips’ Racist Ad Campaign”
How can companies engage well on social media?
Blog assignment: Post an example of a company you think is doing it “right” or “wrong.” Why or why not?
Tuesday 11/6 ELECTION DAY – NO CLASS. GO VOTE!!!
Assignment #2 DUE by 5pm 11/5 over email or Blackboard. How has (candidate of your choice) used social media in this election?
Friday 11/9 Legal Aspects of Social Media
Lessig, “Property” (from Free Culture)
Zittrain, “Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement” (from The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It)
Talk about final paper assignment
Tuesday 11/13 Privacy
Cashmore, Facebook Founder on Privacy: Public Is the New “Social Norm” (watch video too)
Kirkpatrick, “Why Facebook is Wrong About Privacy”
Boyd & Hargittai, Facebook Privacy Settings: Who Cares?
Blog Assignment: Given what we learned about norms and affordances earlier in the semester, do you agree with Zuckerberg, Kirkpatrick, or neither?
Optional: How are your Facebook privacy settings set? Why? Log out and try to view your profile. Were you correct about how you had set your settings?
Friday 11/16 Alice out of town – class cancelled
Thesis statement & outline of paper due over email at 5pm!
Tuesday 11/20 Transgression and Deception
Coleman, “Freaks, Hackers and Trolls: The Politics of Transgression and Spectacle”
Donath, “Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community”
Blog assignment TBD
Alice returns thesis/outlines with comments
Friday 11/23 THANKSGIVING – SCHOOL CLOSED
Tuesday 11/27 Limiting Internet Speech?
Benkler, “A Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks and the Battle over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate” (LONG article)
Bosker, “Randi Zuckerberg: Anonymity online has to go away”
boyd, “Real Name Policies are an Abuse of Power”
Blog Assignment: What has the US government’s response been to Wikileaks? Do you think it’s reasonable or not? Should there be limits on internet free speech?
Friday 11/30 Opting Out & Non-Participation
Portwood-Stacer, “Media refusal and conspicuous non-consumption: The performative and political dimensions of Facebook abstention.”
Marwick, “If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Use It. It’s That Simple. ORLY?”
Alice out of town – Dr. Laura Portwood-Stacer (NYU) substitute professor
Very rough draft (not graded) due at 5pm
Tuesday 12/4 Who Benefits from Social Media?
Hargittai, Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation”
Gray, “Online Profiles: Remediating the Coming Out Story.” (from Out in the Country)
Marwick, “Status, Social Media, and the Tech Scene” (from Status Update)
Blog Assignment: Choose a social media technology we’ve never discussed in class. Post a brief analysis of its affordances and norms, and how it may impact social or political issues. (The point of this assignment is to show that you can use the tools developed in this class to discuss technologies that we can’t even imagine yet!)
Friday 12/7 Last Day of Class: Wrap-Up
Class objectives: achieved?
Blog assignment: What worked in this class? What didn’t work? What would you alter and change if YOU were teaching the class?
Alice returns rough drafts w/ comments
Sign up for one on one paper review slot
PAPERS DUE 12/20 AT 5PM EST OVER EMAIL OR BLACKBOARD