Software, Culture, and Political Economy in New Media Capitalism

Here’s a link to the book of the title of this post – a book about social media, the software that it uses, and the uses of that software.

there’s a free chapter to download at the site, so perhaps worth taking a look.

for purposes of future comprehension re the provision of this link, here is an excerpt from the blurb page:


Gehl adeptly uses a mix of software studies, science and technology studies, and political economy to reveal the histories and contexts of these social media sites. Looking backward at divisions of labor and the process of user labor, he provides case studies that illustrate how binary “Like” consumer choices hide surveillance systems that rely on users to build content for site owners who make money selling user data, and that promote a culture of anxiety and immediacy over depth.

Reverse Engineering Social Media also presents ways out of this paradox, illustrating how activists, academics, and users change social media for the better by building alternatives to the dominant social media sites.



the evolution will be social…

some sort of conference later this year in New York with wide ideas about how social networking can be conceived as ‘not just a marketing opportunity’. check out the blurbs and blogs at the CONTACT site.

‘Caused’ / Enabling

(src) click for zoom in

I get the ’caused’ as opposed to caused, but my tentative reflection is that a distinction without a difference is implied in your remark, Apurr.

We know that social networks don’t cause anything. This would be the cybernetic view against presumptions that an instrumentality is ever wholly/directly/primarily causal. The various instrumentalities are networks for information conveyance in a “minded” system, so the network enables information to flow between instances of human consciousness. In turn a piece of information is propagated via other channels simultaneously, and, propagated as a consequence of, for example, Twitter. It could be said, a piece of information is off-loaded from the network conveyor and set on the, for example, mouth-to-ear conveyor.

In the larger minded system there are various conveyances. Web sites (including forums, al-Jazeera, blogs, newspapers, telephones, cell phones, one-to-one verbal, meetings, etc.. These sum to constitute an ecology. As Phillip Howard puts it:

Digital media didn’t oust Mubarak, but it did provide the medium by which soulful calls for freedom have cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East.

So: Digital media didn’t oust Mubarak, but it did provide a medium by which soulful calls for freedom have cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East.

Influence and effects and consequences and other social results can be measured and assessed. I remember several years ago discussing with a social network expert and graphic specialist what a social network diagram does and does not show. I suggested to him that the qualities of the relationships and their relational effects are not aspects of the network diagram we were talking about. Depictions of network relationships represent implicit schemata. These pictures include and exclude functional aspects, and often also represent slices rather than dynamics.

With respect to a system and the system of systems–and granting Batesonian mindedness–I suspect the question of causality can be addressed only at the point a lot more dimensionality is built into the analysis.


“There’s 80 million people in Egypt, and almost 40 percent are below the poverty line,” Sharma said. “Cell phone penetration is incredibly high, but the majority of the cell phones are not smartphones. A lot of the information that was getting out was from a very small critical mass of people that were able to tweet out of Egypt. Friends of mine in Cairo estimate that it’s less than 200 people who were tweeting from Cairo.”

“The reach of new media is spreading: as of December, 2009, there were over 2,300,000 Facebook users in Egypt. That’s 184 percent growth over the previous twelve months. While Twitter has yet to become the rage in Egypt that it is elsewhere, it has become a popular means for Egyptian activists to alert their friends and followers of arrests and intimidation by security forces.”
(Egypt, Twitter, and the rise of the watchdog crowd By Caroline McCarthy, CNET News on February 14, 2011)

According to a study released by the government-run Information and Decision Support Center in May 2008, blogging provides Egyptian youth “with a refuge where they [can] easily express themselves and their beliefs without restrictions.” The study also asserts that “from 2006 to 2008, a number of demonstrations and expressions of real political protest were associated in one way or another with cyber-protests on the Internet, tapping into the massive public mobilization of youth on political blogs.”

The study estimated that as of 2008 there were approximately 160,000 Egyptian blogs, which accounts for approximately one in four internet subscriptions in the country. The content of the blogs was broken down as follows: 30.7 percent covered a variety of topics, 18.9 percent were political, 15.5 percent personal, 14.4 percent business and culture, 7 percent religious, 4.8 percent social, and 4 percent focused on science and modern technology. Social networking, political action and its real impact in Egypt Sallie Pisch Bikyamasr blog March 21, 2010!

The U.K. government complained to Egypt after Vodafone Group Plc was ordered to send text messages seen to instigate violence as demonstrators demanded the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

U.K. Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt contacted the Egyptian ambassador in London to discuss the order to Vodafone after the company reached out to the government, the Foreign Office said last night. British Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday issued a statement calling the “abuse” of Internet and mobile-phone networks “unacceptable and disturbing.”

Egyptian authorities instructed the local mobile-network operators, which also include Etisalat and France Telecom SA’s Mobinil service, to send messages under emergency powers provisions. Vodafone, the world’s biggest mobile-phone operator, said yesterday that the messages were not written by the mobile- phone operators. (U.K. Complains to Egypt on Ordered Vodafone Messages By Jonathan Browning and Thomas Penny – Feb 4, 2011 Bloomberg)


On the Ground at Social Media Week: The Internet & Uprisings in the Arab World: Are We Already In A Post-Social Media World? By Faye Anderson on February 9, 2011

Egyptian Crisis: The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted By Mark Evans – January 31st, 2011 Sysomos blog

I wonder if the critical mass–with respect to social media–for effective social instigation may be a matter of a confluence of early adapters along the spectrum of internet media in a context where there aren’t a lot of internet users overall. In Egypt’s case, there is huge mobile (but not smart) phone penetration. Also, there apparently are longstanding face-to-face ‘network’ regimes too.

WikiLeaks. Which Level, or, Levelling?

The Evolution of FCC Lobbying Coalitions

Pierre de Vries, “The Evolution of FCC Lobbying Coalitions”

source: The Journal of Social Structure | DeVries

This is from Volume 10. Its contents are not yet posted to the JOSS web site, but the directory for the issue is wide-open. Go figure.

At the bottom is Peer Review Comment No. 1.

This visualization captures the formal connections between lobbying organizations in the fight over telephone transfer fees. This representation suggests that the companies lobbying the most, or the most well connected, are not necessarily the most structurally important, or the most influential. Smaller companies can play important lobbying roles if they connect particular lobbying subgroups to each other. This visualization offers a clean picture of the lobbying network but provides little information about the companies: perhaps a different color scheme, combinations of shapes, or more exaggerated node sizes could have told a clearer story about the kinds of companies playing different roles.

Suggested point; discussions about WikiLeaks, and about other internet-centered phenomena, inhabit the various levels discussants are able to utilize.

There are, aside from discussions themselves, all the mediums and modalities that serve to capture the language of descriptions and explanations and operating mechanics, etc..

So, how do we wish to speak of, for example, WikiLeaks, today? In effect from what system of awareness do we wish to view those other systems of awareness, each of which is not necessarily discrete from one another?

(Yup, been revisiting Gregory for the last three months.)

Very crudely put, how do we locate diverse effects of a document dump into the public domain within the means for consideration of those effects? For example, how would one bring to bear on this, social psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and, to clump together more fuzzy social science, political-economics?

I would extend this thought problem (posing as an invitation,) to studying the internet itself. Which is to suggest how do we choose to wrap are head around the unfolding social-political-economic development discoverable in the mash up of communicative and performative modalities given by cyberspace?

And, we understand the development and articulation of individual perspectives happens within the particularities of the context our individual awareness gives up.

Then there are all those spun discourses which obtain some gravity in ‘one scheme of things’ yet are, so-to-speak, the part objects of much more complex schemes and meta-schemes. For example, we can learn that Assange is a horny meglomaniacal anarchist with a messianic mission to embarrass the powers-that-be in the U.S. and West. Maybe he’s a hero depending how one contextualizes and defines heroism.

However, my suggestion here is: meanwhile sophisticated networks such as the one depicted in the above social network map, are working 24-7 to obtain goals likely more complex and with weighty ‘effects’ which are more–how shall I put it–subtle than ’embarrassment.’

google uber alles

hungry beast again, this time with a nicely put together summary of google and its…intentions:

once more, you will want what others need you to buy.


having grown up in sydney and enjoyed the 80’s public art of the BUGAUP group – who altered billboard ads to make them both humorous and critical of their products (mainly tobacco and alcohol – see: – i am now still interested in the idea of ‘culture jamming’ and what calls the ‘mental environment’ and how it’s shaped by various forms of the media (‘publicity’ as john berger used to refer to it. see for example his TV series and little book “ways of seeing”, now so out-of-date in its language and images as to be retro in flavour).
[sorry about that sentence – not a good ‘lead’ at all!]
those intent on engaging with the practices of the big corporations on their home turf have recently turned to the video ad campaign, posting clips on youtube, where these days lots of people hope to claim a little bit of the global fame from video popularity. but big corporations have their little ways of removing negative portrayals, as greenpeace has found with nestle, who managed to get this one pulled from youtube – thanks perhaps to being bigger than china wrt google?

Have a break? from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.

Speaking of Being Grumpy

What has the internet done to us?

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