We’re proud to announce the special issue of Social Media & Society, vol. 1 no. 2, curated by and drawing its contributions from Culture Digitally. Culture Digitally and Social Media & Society are, we like to think, cut from the same fabric. For five years now, we have endeavored to gather scholars and practitioners who explore the myriad ways in which societies, organizations, and individuals engage networked communication technologies, and the practices, cultures, and imaginaries that emerge around them. We see Social Media & Society as also seeking a new approach to these challenges, one complementary to the path we have taken with Culture Digitally. So we were honored when we were asked to help assemble a special issue in the journal’s formative moments. This post, and a handful of others this week, will point you to some of the amazing work available in this issue.
Since both of us made our initial forays into media studies by contemplating technologies designed to enforce media industry regimes and technologies taken up to resist them, readers might rightly imagine that we have an affinity to research that examines how users confront technologies and their affordances, the tension between the shell and the ghost inside. This tension is examined here in several essays. Brooke Erin Duffy and Emily Hund [“‘Having it All’ on Social Media: Entrepreneurial Femininity and Self-Branding among Fashion Bloggers”] point out that, although fashion blogging provides women an alternative source of both information and entrepreneurial opportunity, the social media platforms they must use still remain within a logic of capital, reproducing social and labor valuation inequalities that have long been evident in “women’s work”. Similarly, Lonny Brooks, Che Meneses, and Barbara Keyser’s study [“From Territorial to Temporal Ambitions: The Politics of Time and Imagination in Massive Multiplayer Online Forecasting Games”] of students’ encountering that “serious” video game Evoke, meant to teach solutions to complex social problems through play, suggests there is much more at play on that game platform. Their study identifies a logic embedded in the game’s design that’s not far from the rampant accumulation of capital and exploited labor that created the very problems it claims to address. The game stops being merely a platform for “play,” and the “magic circle” continues to elude games designed for learning. Mirca Madianou [“Digital Inequality and Second Order Disasters: Social Media in the Typhoon Haiyan Recovery”] offers us some hope that all is not lost in this pernicious tension between the politics of commercial platforms and the users who seek a greater good. By illustrating instances where social media can be used to communicate and deal with disasters, while remaining critical of the cultural biases in their implementation, she shows that a balance is possible among the many politics on a platform.
Finally, not all social media uses are quite so progressive. The issue closes with a round table discussion that began at one of our Culture Digitally workshops, hosted in London by King’s College and Goldsmiths. During that workshop many in our community toiled over the growing presence of hate as both a force and a commodity online. Here, Tamara Shepherd, Alison Harvey, Tim Jordan, Sam Srauy, and Kate Miltner [“Histories of Hating”] contemplate the history of hate online, including trolling, misogyny, racism, and just a penchant for chaos. How did hate grow into one of the distinctive and disturbing realities of internet culture? The history of the internet, like the history of anything that fosters cultures, can be a mirror that shows those lucky enough to write that history what they most want to see. As counterpoint to that, the round table contributors offer a lucid discussion of the history of Internet hate, that may be the beginnings of what historian David Takaki would call “a different mirror.”
We hope that as we have introduced the various articles you have taken an interest, formed an informed opinion and questioned assumptions. As our readers know we are an open community and welcome thoughts, comments and participation. If you’d like to contribute and join the conversation feel free to get in touch with us. Our complete introduction to the issue is available here.