On the transformation of everyday culture in an era of liquid modernity

Archive for 2008|Yearly archive page

Facebook fatigue

In Internet traffic, social networking sites on March 4, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Looking at the frequency of coverage that Facebook has been getting recently (courtesy of Google Trends), it is increasingly obvious that the hype around the site seems to follow Everett Rogers’ typical S-curve of technology adoption, where the accumulated penetration of an innovation flattens out as the uptake becomes saturated.
After a flurry of news stories alongside a surge in new user accounts, the interest around the site now seems to have reached a plateau. Read the rest of this entry »

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MySpace censors its own users

In censorship, social networking sites on March 3, 2008 at 10:26 am

Rupert Murdoch-owned social networking site MySpace censors the internal messaging service of its own users. When sending messages through the network’s own mail service, certain words are automatically deleted.

This is but one example of how the arbitrary impositions of corporate actors in fact comes with grave political potentials, only held back by lines ultimately drawn by governmental laws and regulations — lines that are often arbitrary or contested in themselves. This “code of conduct” is increasingly common today, among corporate actors like ISPs, search engines and network providers. Inspired by the term just-in-time, used in logistics, I call this particular mode of operation just-about-legal. My argument is that this business method in fact lies at the heart of many of today’s most profitable corporate giants. Read the rest of this entry »

Mp3s and their supposed lack of magic

In art, mp3, music on February 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

The physical carrier of music makes a difference: Compared to mp3, vinyl is more tactile, cumbersome, weighty, and lends itself to rarity rather than to instant duplicability – but therefore it is also more mystical, and indeed more magical, some people argue.
The Stool Pigeon is a healthy little music publication, withstanding the current celebrity culture and commodification of “authenticity” by sticking to a strict fanzine aesthetic, a peculiar fondness for 19th century font exorbitance and a deliberately haphazard web presence. In the most recent issue, someone with the alias ‘Bone Dagger’ writes about the ephemera of mp3s versus vinyl. An old debate you might say, and one that would have been more academically convincing if invoking Walter Benjamin, Friedrich Kittler and N. Katherine Hayles (I guess one could pull out more and more articles like this, for example). Anyhow, in taking its cue from Arthur C. Clarke’s recognition that any technology advanced enough is virtually indistinguishable from magic, the Dagger’s argument still makes for a cosy read for a materialist like me. After having spent far too many hours indexing my own vinyl collection on Discogs.com, I must say I generally agree with the sentiment. Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook, ‘til death do us apart

In everyday life, media ecology, social networking sites on February 5, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Facebook makes visible the futility of life, but also the marvel that appears in-between the banalities.

Not only do social networks like MySpace and especially Facebook make the primary channels for keeping informed about when people close to you break up, or have other important changes in their lives (losing their jobs, being pregnant etc). Sometimes you’re apprehending things not through what is actually said, but through what is left out. The “relationship status” indicator is all of a sudden taken down. The ever-present “wall” is temporarily suspended. Or nothing happens; the page remains immutable, inert, suspended in that void which life crises often generate.
In effect, here the social network does not mean anything; it doesn’t taint or colour reality, neither positively nor negatively; it just is, like life itself. Does it feel cheap to break up via text message? Does it feel equally cheap to let one’s mates know only through automatized Facebook feeds? Social facts remain; their charge is not in how they are mediated – whether they are gripping or banal lies in their own nature, not with the messenger. Read the rest of this entry »