I’ve just been reading Walter Kirn’s review of Alice Marwick’s (@alicetiara) excellent book “Status Update“. The review strikes me as odd and off-the-mark. The author seems to have misunderstood Marwick’s book and misconceives ethnography by criticising Marwick for offering anecdotes. Never mind that review though. The book is very worthwhile reading for everybody with an interest in recent development in social media and social networking technologies. Marwick’s focus is not so much the technology itself, i.e. not Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. but the scene that has arisen in the context of these technologies. This scene mainly based in San Francisco, involves people who develop these technologies as well as people who use them for to organise their social lives, online and offline.
The book highlights how the entrepreneurs in their enthusisam for the opportunities offered by social technologies forget or ignore, deliberately or not, the neoliberal ideology that underpins their work and work ethic. The result of this ignorance is an inequality embodied in the observation that the entrepreneurs largely are young, white male. Women are decoration and accessories, “sex objects and secretaries” as Marwick writes. Whilst the media are full of talk about the “social media revolution” Marwick reveals that the members of the tech-community in San Francisco are technology enthusiasts with a business sense that at times makes (some of) them rich. Others who are not technology savvy enough to create their own Facebook-like riches exploit the opportunities offered by social media to become “micro-celibrities”. This status as mirco-celebrity allows some of them to connect with people, offline and online, who otherwise they’d never met. For some the drive to become a micro-celebrity and connect with the really rich and famous, means to reveal events and activities from their private lives, revelations some of them sometimes later regret; for example when being ‘trolled’ and spit out by the audience that for long seemed to love them.
Marwick’s book has variously been reviewed. If you want to check a good review before buying the book check Ravi Mattu’s review in the Financial Times and Finola Kerrigan’s (@finolak) review in Times Higher Education, but ignore Kirn’s in the NYT.