The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media
This book studies the rise of social media in the first decade of the twenty-first century, up until 2012. It provides both a historical and a critical analysis of the emergence of networking services in the context of a changing ecosystem of connective media. Such history is needed to understand how the intricate constellation of platforms profoundly affects our experience of online sociality. In a short period of time, services like Facebook, YouTube and many others have come to deeply penetrate our daily habits of communication and creative production. While most sites started out as amateur-driven community platforms, half a decade later they have turned into large corporations that do not just facilitate user connectedness, but have become global information and data mining companies extracting and exploiting user connectivity. Offering a dual analytical prism to examine techno-cultural as well as socio-economic aspects of social media, the author dissects five major platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Wikipedia. Each of these microsystems occupies a distinct position in the larger ecosystem of connective media, and yet, their underlying mechanisms for coding interfaces, steering users, filtering content, governance and business models rely on shared ideological principles. Reconstructing the premises on which these platforms are built, this study highlights how norms for online interaction and communication gradually changed. "Sharing," "friending," "liking," "following," "trending," and "favoriting" have come to denote online practices imbued with specific technological and economic meanings. This process of normalization is part of a larger political and ideological battle over information control in an online world where everything is bound to become "social."