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<nettime> Ippolita Collective: in the Face Book Aquarium, Part One secti
Patrice Riemens on Thu, 13 Feb 2014 15:45:49 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective: in the Face Book Aquarium, Part One section 3

In the Facebook Aquarium, Part One, section 3.

Social Dynamics: voyeurism and homophilia.

Facebook promotes 'homophilia' [6], the reciprocal fascination experienced
by those who feel they share a common identity - which is not the same
thing as a common affinity. Facebook 'Friends' are, at least formally,
people who come together because they 'like' the same things: "this is
what we like" is what they express. In the future they may even add: "this
is what we don't like". But the latter is unlikely, since divergence is a
source of conflict. So we take part in the same events, we are equals, and
that is why we feel happy together and we exchange notes, messages,
'presents', games, and /pokes/. Social exchanges self-organize on the
basis of what is identical. Dialectics are a non-goer, conlicts are banned
by design, and evolution (through cross-overs, exchanges and the selection
of differences) is put to a halt by the same token. We stick together
because we recognize ourselves to belong to the same identity. Deviance is
out, diversity is a non-issue, and actually, we couldn't bother less.

>From a social viewpoint, homophilia generates homogenous groups of people
who literally echo on each other. It is exactly the opposite of affinity,
where difference, (on the contrary,) is a condition. Diffence there is
even prized as the starting point of every relationship. In affinity-based
relationships, individuals perceive each others and engage in
relationships as the outcame of a bundle of differences who suggest an
alikeness, making interaction easier. There is no such thing as a
requirement to adjust to the group, since it is the uniqueness of the
individual that creates value, not his conformity (homogenousness) with
the group.

The logical outcome of social structuration in small homogenous groups,
consisting in a few hundred 'friends' or a few thousands 'fans' is the
emergence of social dynamics akin to those in a village: everybody knows
everything about everybody else. Social control rules the roost and is the
unspoken feature behind all relationships. Even if it is possible, in
theory, to set up different levels of sharing of the information published
on one's profile, the actual practice is to have everything published
without restriction, and as this spreads out further and further afield,
'total transparancy' on 'the whole Internet' is (potentially) attained.
And this because, as per company policy, Facebook is based on the concept
of sharing, and is geared towards reaching out to kindred souls and
engaging with them in the easiest way possible. The underlying economic
rationale of this, which we will elaborate into more details further on,
are obvious: "encouraging people to become public increases [advertising]
revenues. (...) Technology makes everything more visible and easier to
access. The tech(nology) is totally aligned with the market." [7].

The homophilia-based ideology of sharing on the Web 2.0 makes exposure (of
others) a fully acceptable and encouraged social practice and
self-exposure the golden rule of community life. Rob was yersterday at
Alice's party, here are the pics, 'like' them and share them with all your
'friends'. Update your profile and tell everybody what you 'like', where
you are with whom, and what you are doing; please tell us what is your
favorite brand of blue-jeans, and what's your favorite position in bed,
with full details, ha, you're looking for this great lube with that
special taste, now here we've got a customized ad just for you, matching
your requirements exactly, and presto - here it is!

When a group's identity is established on the basis of feelings so simple
as to be captured by the 'Like' button, iterating over and again what one
'likes' becomes a must. But on the other hand it is also crucial to know
in real time what other people 'like' so as to avoid unpleasant
divergences with respect to the (common) identity that bolster our
perception of belonging. To cement the (group) identity implies control of
others as well as control of the self. Mouthing a strong dislike of this
or that, is out of the question, just as are nasty pronoucements about
this or that person who is one of the 'friends' of some of our 'friends':
just ignore is the right option. In these (this type of) relationships,
indifference is the substitute for conflict, but so is also meanness, as
when one publishes less propitious pics of 'friends', just to nag them.
This way a kind of unspoken and underground relational accounting system
puts itself in place, making us to react almost instantly to those who are
very reactive to us, while sharing invitations, comment requests and
'like' appeals by less preferred parties are simply put on the

Facebook offers many applications making it possible to follow instantly
everything what internauts are up to: Fecbook Connect and Facebook Mobile
make it easy to stay connected even when not on Facebook, or not in front
of a computer. The spread of self-exposure devices like smartphones (***)
and tablets enables further cross-collecting of geo-referrenced GSM data
together with increasingly detailled personal profiles on social networks.
All this for our own good, in order to let us share more, faster, better.
But do we really share?

Next time: Psychological Dynamics: narcissism, exhibitionism, and
emotional porn

[6] Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin & James M. Cook "Birds of a
Feather: Homophily in Social Networks", Annual Review of Sociology, vol
27: 415-444, August 2001
Homophilia has its origin in classical Greek philosophy, esp in
Aristoteles' Nicomachean Ethics and Plato's Phaedrus. In the same vein,
heterophilia can be sourced back to the sophists (cf Plato's Protagoras
and Gorgias) and also to Herodotus' interest in 'barbarians' (Histories,
I, 1), eulogizing their 'wonderful' cultures into something Greeks might
want to take inspiration from. With respect to contemporary social media
it would be worth to dig into the ways thinking in terms of difference and
becoming takes place.
[7] Erica Naone, The Changing Nature of Privacy on Facebook. Microsoft's
Danah Boyd on social networking, Technology Review:
(***) "A smartphone is a tracking device which can also be used to make
phone calls" -'Jake' Appelbaum (-transl)

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
(http://www.antenna.nl - Dutch site)
(http://www.antenna.nl/indexeng.html - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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