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Re: <nettime> Ippolita Collective: In the Facebook Aquarium (Part One, #
Mikael Brockman on Thu, 6 Feb 2014 19:26:41 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Ippolita Collective: In the Facebook Aquarium (Part One, #2, 1)


"Patrice Riemens" <patrice {AT} xs4all.nl> writes:

> People without a Facebook account are part of no community at all! To
> put it even more strongly: they simply do not exist, and it becomes
> difficult for them to stay in touch with their usual contacts.

Yet here we are, a party of ghosts, undead, recluses, artists,
researchers, whatever we are.  And there are a million strange
communities that we don't know about (churches, parties, streets, clubs,
etc).

The very people who construct and maintain Facebook are quite seriously
involved with open source software.  Those communities are mediated
through an assemblage of technologies and practices -- mailing lists,
Git repositories, IRC, papers, blogs, hackathons, conferences, etc.

Young people seem to be pretty enthusiastic, in fact, about leaving
Facebook behind, maybe keeping a little-used account to see grandma's
status updates or chat with old acquaintances.  Rasmus Fleischer wrote
about Facebook as a kind of festival, fun while it lasted.

I often sense a kind of utopianism in writings about social media,
whether it's "for" or "against" them.  The utopian element seems to be
in the "social" idea itself.  Maybe we were never all that social?  The
social life of cities seems to revolve almost entirely around the
consumption of commoditized psychoactive beverages, scrounging for food,
flirting, and working.  Our non-digital "social protocols" can be quite
restrictive, too, as any outsider, weirdo, or loner can confirm.

It's like the hyperemphasis on the "social" becomes a big, glaring,
terrifying question: What are we all supposed to *do* with each other?
(And, how are we supposed to tolerate each other?)  This might be a
political question, or philosophical, psychological, sociological,
democratic, spiritual, whatever; it seems like one of the perennial
human questions.

Reminds me also of one of the mysteries of the net, which is that for
all its internationalism, it's still pretty parochial in terms of how
people seem to want to use it.  Sure, we're a click and a TCP packet
away from conversing with strangers across the globe, but we'd rather
mostly stick with family, friends, the tribe.

Someone named Scott MacFarland wrote on the Huffington Post:

  "My liberal arts degree had taught me to think, and to do it
   well. What I didn't realize was that many peers, bosses, co-workers
   and others would soon recognize my social skills. These social skills
   were not the social media or social networking skills we know
   today. They were the tried and true social skills that allowed me to
   talk to someone with confidence, look them in the eye and hold a
   conversation, critically think (without a smartphone thinking for me)
   and conduct my personal and professional life as an intelligent,
   charming individual. . .

  "Today, the word social has taken on an entirely different meaning
   than what Webster's Dictionary once called it back in 1987 when I
   graduated from college. There are a few things I wish I could get
   back from those days. But, what I really wish I could resurrect is
   the true meaning of the word social."

Back when Scott was young, social life was intelligent and charming; now
we're all sort of absent, confused, schizoid.  It's a clear statement of
a kind of extraverted logocentrism, similar to the last words of this
fragment of the Ippolita Collective text:

  "We will see that, in the era of global /attention-distraction/, it
   has not become any easier to develop and implement well-adapted
   policies, as everybody is constantly busy chatting, photographing,
   publishing, tweeting, etc. so much so, that they have no time left to
   engage in genuine (non-virtual) relationships."

Hmm, what, like marriage?  A "genuine relationship" sounds pretty much
like the unattainable goal of human life, though this might just reflect
my need for therapy.  Maybe I am a casualty of exactly the process which
these people describe; to some extent this is obvious.  Yet I'm deeply
skeptical of the idea of genuine relationships; of the idea that
Facebook (such a passÃ, ephemeral product) enacts global mind control;
and of the nostalgia for face-to-face "society," for 17th century
coffee-houses, for the Enlightenment?

--
Mikael Brockman


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