Everything is social III

If the previous posts dealt more with individuals and how we deal with the social media environment, here I will focus more on the groups themselves that have appeared so as to make all those people and information manageable and more rational. To be precise, I’m talking about the “Community,” a word that isn’t just a buzz term but also describes something that is indeed new.

Since SM, and the digital economy in general, works by concentrating attention, one would expect to see gigantic monopolistic points of attention. And although that does indeed happen from time to time, people don’t want to be anonymous, invisible users in groups of millions, so naturally we tend to form subgroups, niches, subcultures, fandoms, and communities. The concentration of attention reappears there, too, but it is somewhat less extreme, and you can find some voice when joining such groups. However, as this means that the actual number of people in such groups has to be relativelly small, per capita economic opportunities also have to be smaller, even if the intensity with which people fight over them isn’t. In some cases they are so small, artists just sell to each other and the community is actually a hierarchy of artists (with the top selling drawing and painting tutorials to those below, for example.) That is logical enough, but it is a surprisingly difficult concept to accept to people, who want their cake (subgroups specialization) and eat it too (access to large undiferentiated pools of customers.) And if you want a pool of customers, you need to cross and overlap communities, but that’s difficult for most people since they tend to speacialize and find niches. You need media to overcome that, not social, just media in general (from mainstream media to blogs or news sites) as these tend to aggregate a lot of content and can connect distinct communities.

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Everything is social Part II

THE ROLE OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA USER AS AN INFORMATION PROCESSOR

As a SM (social media) user, your role and purpose are not analogous to that of a “consumer” even if that’s what you seem to be doing most of the time. And as a producer selling your wares on SM, you are only, indirectly, looking out for consumers; you might be looking for willing marketers.

Although I hate to use such ugly neologisms, many SM users are prosumers, that is, a combination of both consumers and producers. That is the greatest liberating force of the digital economy, as well as its main weakness and curse. A user may join a certain network to follow some influential people, but if through his own actions or some other reason he increases his reach and popularity, he is now a producer of content, too. So when people talk about SM attention economy and competition, keep in mind that it’s an economy that sometimes doesn’t have a clear distinction between consumers and producers, where most of the former want to be the latter, and when people do not compete so much for neutral consumers (like different brands compete for your attention at the supermarket) as between each other as producers/influencers, so as to get rid of the competition within a community(civil wars being the worst wars, and all that.) As it is very difficult to gauge the quality of a lot of digital “content” or “products,” it’s not uncommon that this is done not by convincing any hypothetical consumer of the superiority of your product, but by tarring the competition, by destroying them at a moral or ideological level, to make sure people don’t want to be associated with them. Hence the known nastiness of SM, which ironically is sometimes directly proportional to how low the stakes are.

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Everything is social—Part I

[Note: I wrote this three-part post to summarize a larger thesis I have been slowly building up these past months, which may or may not end up being a larger work. For this post, I have removed most citations to academic papers dealing with social media and abridged the text as much as I could. It’s still a large post, so read it at your leisure; there’s no need to binge here.

I have focused on how the structure itself of social media and information technologies affects the arts, like writing, although I first start with visual arts as an example because it’s easier to show, and so you can see it’s a more general pattern. Of course, the dynamics apply to many other areas of culture and public opinion. What I describe here are not laws, more like trends based on digital and social media nudges, and if both artists as well as consumers become aware of them, it’s reasonable to assume they would react or behave differently so as to counteract some of these forces. But how far this could go I do not know.

It goes without saying that this post applies mostly to creative efforts. My overview of social media is mostly negative because I’m focusing here on the effect it has had on the arts and the people who are usually described as digital natives—people that, to be blunt, have been scammed. If your purpose on social media is to follow a couple of gimmick accounts or post pictures of your cat, most of what you’ll find here will not affect you directly. For most online users, social media is a place to lurk, find jokes, and get angry at the news. However, more indirectly, either as a consumer of what other people there create or as a victim of current online discourses, what is explained here will affect you (or annoy you) one way or another.]

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Disavow this post!

Today we are going to learn the difference between condemning and disavowing, especially in the context of calls for condemnation/disavowing. Why? I don’t know; I just felt an inexplicable urge to write about it. It seems like an appropriate and relevant subject, for some reason.

To condemn, criticize, or disapprove something merely means to express, publicly, that you don’t like something. It could be anything: ideas, public works, a movie, how people dress, dogs, whatever.

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