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.



twitter pulse

here an analysis of twitter tweets over the past year or so using some sort of algorithm + “sentiment analysis” . it is based on local political stuff, so may not make sense to those in the USA – and also i have to annonce the rider that, not being privy to what has been used to make the algorithm, and furthermore, being extremely skeptical of anything called “sentiment analysis” that is automatically compiled, i cannot say that some of the readouts will be of any actual authenticity or believability… however, my interest lies in the use of info-graphics for rendering lots of data. as the site says, “see more. read less”.

list anthropology II

i’ve been citing ross williams’ 2002 unpublished conference paper on shaming in email in a couple of my own papers – there’s not much in my area on this topic, so it looks as if i’m going to have to look into journals of psychology in order to get reports of any studies done in the area of group solidarity, and interpersonal alignment and positioning in the context of online groups.

i’ve asked ross whether i can post it here as a link for any others to follow up. whereas i’d have placed it in the list anthro resources page previously, it looks as if this has been moved down a rank to post-only status – hence i am announcing the link here: “The dynamics of shaming in an email discussion group”.
it’s in PDF form and is quite short so will download onto your desktop fairly quickly. members of netdynam in february 2002 will no doubt recall the discussion that the paper engendered at that time.

a short excerpt follows:

‘We are deeply sensitised to the occasions of shame, for ourselves and others, and the rules of etiquette and face-saving work to preserve our social systems against the disruptive effects of shame when the gap between embodied and ideal selves threatens to be revealed inadvertently. Conversely, the threat to reveal this gap and subject the other to shame is a powerful tool in expert hands; and we are all experts.

Threats to the public face can arise so swiftly and be handled so automatically that they pass in a moment, almost unnoticed, and only a careful record of gestures, glances, phrasing and vocal inflections allows us to interpret an interaction as an instance of social control based on shaming. In this paper I will analyse a shaming
interaction in an e-mail group, partly because it is inherently interesting to discover familiar group processes in a novel setting, and partly because the text medium of the email group is so congenial to the hermeneutic endeavour; generating an interpretable text from a face-to-face group is intensely laborious and subject to serious error and omissions, even when one has the best audio-visual equipment available. With email, the work is done for you.’

here’s a link to the previous list anthropology post for further context on netdynam the list.

call for papers only: online social media


Special Issue on “Persistence and Change in Social Media”

“You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you.” Heraclitus.

Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society


We seek papers for a special issue of the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society on the twin topics of persistence and change in social media. From ICQ to IM, Six-degrees to Friendster to MySpace to Facebook to Twitter, change seems to be a recurrent theme in social media. Not only are users willing to try out new tools, but they also continue using existing media. In light of the seemingly endless novelty in social media, how can researchers build a theory of social media practice, rather than local theories on a per-site basis? Which insights from one site can we apply to another? Which ones are due to period and cohort effects and which ones relate to the structure of social media generally?

Read the rest of this entry »

Moderated Anarchy

Clip from BBC – year: 1993.

relative affordances of blog v list: boundaries again

I’m a member of two other mailing lists which both address the same academic topics: SysFunc and SysFling. One is based in Sydney and was conceived of as being a more local venue for announcing Sydney and even Australia-based meetings, conferences, articles and so on, as well as for fielding the usual questions regarding the analysis of curly clauses. The other is based in Europe and is said to be more formal in its approach to similar concerns for systemicists. However, it is probably fair to say that most subscribers belong to both lists, and that most threads if they get going, get CCed to both lists, thus providing for a lot of overlapping.

Occasionally the beginnings of discussions are limited to one list, and then someone posts a CC to the other list as well. Those who are not members of both lists begin to wonder what is going on, but, as I say, these people are in the minority anyway.

After a recent spate of twin list activity, one of the moderators and keepers of one of these two lists, commented that amalgamation might not be a bad idea – especially in view of the fact that he was hoping to retire from list maintenance activities at the end of the year. Thereafter a slew of posts were made approving of the amalgamation – to the extent that a cry went up to the effect that perhaps any further messages on the topic be limited to those who were nay, rather than yea-sayers on the matter. A short period of silence thereafter seemed to suggest that the vote might be carried unanimously until one lone voice spoke up in favour of keeping both lists – aka nay-saying – providing affiliatory and affinity-related reasons for doing so. In other words, he cited boundary issues of the sub-grouping kind, arguing that each list has evolved their own separate identities. Thereafter, another one or two more timid types also ventured to add their nay against the groundswell of yea-sayers – but no doubt to little avail.

Read the rest of this entry »


One of our crowd, Jay Lemke (see links on ‘online articles’ page) has recently come up with a neologism to describe the hypertext way we now view the world: traversals. Inspirations in his work come from systems theory and eco-social dynamics.

Here’s a taste of the argument he makes, and a link to the complete version on his site:

“I wish to propose here a new class of theoretical object, which I am calling traversals. Traversals are temporal-experiential linkings, sequences, and catenations of meaningful elements that deliberately or accidentally, but radically, cross genre boundaries. A traversal is a traversal across standardized genres, themes, types, practices, or activities that nevertheless creates at least an ephemeral or idiotypical meaning for its human participants, and represents at least a temporarily functional connection or relationship among all its constituent processes and their (human or nonhuman) participants (i.e. actants).


“The contemporary impulse toward life-by-traversals comes from sources at many levels of social organization. We may speculate that part of our biological survival repertory is a disposition toward new experiential combinations under conditions of severe repetition. When too much of our life simply repeats the same sequences of action, with small variations, again and again, something in our phylogenetic wisdom may impel us not to follow action A with action B yet again, but at least now and then to see how it feels if we follow A with Q or V. This could be a source at the infra-organismic scale of organization. At the organism level, where we define ourselves as whole social beings by our interactions with others and with things (the human and nonhuman partners of our ecosocial being), we value the security and predictability of standardized patterns of inter-activity, but only up to the point of boredom. We are curious and perverse primates. Put us together and we are likely to goad one another to dangerous and improbable forms of behavior; link our diverse individual interests and perversions, and combinatorially, which is to say socially, we create for one another a much larger space of possibilities for action. Each step outside our familiar routines leads us into unknown territory where we cannot know even what we will want next, much less what we will get by acting. We move out into the unpredictable spaces of our relations to our companions, and we move also into spaces mediated by artifacts which bear the traces of others’ choices in other times and places.

“Definitions belong to the end days of theory-building; they are never truly starting points….

Examples are more helpful.”

link to complete essay

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