Class Blog: February 18th

Social network is everywhere. Barely no one could escape it: even if you say no to all social platforms, you may still be tagged in other’s pictures; or be forced to open and manage an online platform due to professional reasons.

With the transformation of social networks, the issue of identity becomes public’s major concern. People’s online identity evolves. During the so-called “connective turn”, there is a trend towards connectivity and narrative from both sides of the users and business. Users gradually learnt how to utilize the developing features of social platforms for their own advantage. They know how to use SNS to carry out self-staging and self-branding actions instead of mere passive self-expression. Dijck (2013) did an interesting comparison between Facebook and Linkedin as two typical cases after their revolutionary change of main features.

After the introduction of Timeline as a narrative biography, Facebook integrates more life narrative elements into its interface strategy, triggering users’ attention on how to and to whom to tell the story, thus complete both self-expression and self-promotion. While users get more skilled at narrative interface, companies strive to present digital storytelling to users instead of ads, and FB itself increases more control over users to build a larger database. Compared to Facebook, Linkedin mainly focuses on offering recruitment and advertising services for corporations and agencies. Despite its characteristic of professionalism, Linkedin users apply a subtler and more professional way to create their image and highlight their strengths.

Unlike G+, on which as Rachel said in G+ Challenge, people are not trying to craft an online identity, users on FB and Linkedin are eager to self-perform and self-promote. In Dijck’s words, people use different platforms to reflect different needs and craft different identities. For example, even if the Linkedin interface emphasizes more on users’ self-promotion while FB more on self-expression, people could still choose what their online identity could be on different digital platforms, and what kind of story they want to tell. However, due to the power struggles from platform owners, employers, and users, people are subject to possible manipulation from social media. People should maintain their authenticity in this digital world of transparency, and treat social media as mere a tool of identity formation rather than a path towards a lost land.

This week’s readings explored the ways people actively participate in social media, and how literacy practices continue to evolve with the development of networked publics. From the design of self through connectivity and narrative, to the acknowledgement of a participation gap that warrants an insertion of criticality as youth engage with dominant ideologies and social control, there is no denying the relevance digital mobility has on all of our interactions, whether professional or personal.

One thing’s for sure: “Mediating technologies […] change everything” (Boyd 125). When looking at the advent of the internet, how we protest oppression and brutality has been reimagined — the era of the Black Lives Matter movement has revolutionized the, “Tools we have to organize and resist” because they are, “…fundamentally different than anything that’s existed before in the black struggle” (Stephen). With gains in forcing issues of abuse and discrimination to the foreground, the level of privacy available to citizens has adjusted and has become even more insidious with social voyeurism, and corporate and political information mongering. The way corporations and advertising use our personal information to tailor ads to us and our networks is just one way, privacy has taken on a new face.

But, there is no denying this new sense of agency at the heart of how young people interact with and craft their social media networks. This is how they learn. As Hull and Stornaiuolo point out in their article on Literate Arts in a Global World, “engagement with distant and global audiences via digital social networks should be throughout curriculum.”

The pervasive nature of publics has managed to impose itself on identity, relationships, politics, and expression. As we negotiate meaning, as active or inactive participants as Colin pointed out in his post on Douglas Rushkoff, there is no denying while social media is in many ways empowering, it also can leave people vulnerable to isolation, peer pressure, myopic views on multiculturalism, and the reinforcement of the status quo all in a single click.


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