All kinds of social media and networked culture theory – Journal Club – 25/03/2011

After recently joining the LiSC Friday afternoon research group and eating all the cake for the past few weeks I was invited to give a talk in relation to my PhD project and give some theoretical/critical insight into the development of online social networking practices and related networked socio-economic trends. I guess this contributed some degree of an interdisciplinary flavour, since I come from a cultural studies/media studies background. My PhD is focussed on how forms of subjectivity (embodied in connecting, producing, performing, playing, communicating, tagging, uploading, ‘poking’, and ‘liking’ in the social media platform Facebook) may be being governed, conditioned, structured, captured and modulated through the technological architecture of such sites, representing a critique of wider developments to highly mediated, networked cultures in the context of global capitalism. I have been collaborating with members of LiSC to develop an application to collect data from Facebook users for my study, which is how I came to be involved in the research group.

I began my talk by discussing some of the recent work on online social media, and it was interesting to see a number of apparent crossovers here. I gave a brief discussion about the historical development of capitalism then attempted to map out three key areas which I feel are important for critically understanding networked technology and practices: Identity, Power and Labour. I delved into a broad range of critical theory and philosophy, in particular Gilles Deleuze’s work on ‘control societies’, the ‘dividual’ self, ‘de-territorialisation’ and ‘assemblages’, as well issues of ‘affective/immaterial labour’ and ‘networked ontology’ (which really warranted more time to explain in fine detail but hopefully the group found the overview of these concepts in someway interesting and/or useful). These core issues make up the body of my literature review and provide the historical, cultural and critical background from which my study will emerge; as this process is far from complete, my talk painted a vague picture of the theoretical environment in this area, perhaps opening avenues for future research.

I think I will reward everyone for sitting through that session with some assortment of cake and nibbles for next week…

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