Everyday Hybridity

Dr Paul O'Connor
Anthropology/Sociology/Cultural Studies/
Hong Kong/Ethnicity/
Skateboarding/Everyday Life

Lecturing in Anthropology at CUHK

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cuhk.academia.edu/PaulOConnorFollow me on Academia.edu
@peejayohhsee
everydayhybridity@gmail.com

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  1. We followed the situation of the Rohingya in class recently. OpenDemocracy covers it from the angle of Social Media looking at not only the conflict between the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya, but also the politics of Aung San Suu Kyi and Facebook.

     
     
  2. For a number of years the media has been reporting on the general dissatisfaction with Facebook. It has always been noted though, that people keep their profiles even if they do not use them anymore. Increasingly it seems that such a trend may be turning around, that people are leaving Facebook.

    Following up on my recent theme of surveillance, this Guardian story provides a brief overview of why people are having enough of the Social Media giant.

     
     
  3. I am currently reading Liquid Surveillance by Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyon. It is another one of Bauman’s conversational books where we read a dialogue, this time between him and Lyon. This format actually works quite well in this debate as Lyon tries to lead Bauman into areas where he has not made unambiguous declarations. Such forays aren’t always as successful as one would hope, alas we are fascinated by Bauman not because of what he doesn’t say but because of what he does say.
The points I wanted to make about this text resonate with its focus on technologies of surveillance. From an academic point of view the development of the network as something more important than community is really key. The Social Sciences are paying serious attention to social networking sites, but it almost seems that there needs to be an overarching  critical academic approach to it. something like ‘networkology’, that works with the foundations provided by sociology, anthropology, psychology and media and cultural studies, and then uses it to take account of how central social networking and media sites are in everyday life.
Bauman makes the point that the network is not like community, there isn’t a shared outlook, or similar geography, a shared culture or national perspective. Think of your Facebook friends or your Tumblr followers, you are the only thing that all of them share in common. Accordingly with such fragile ‘liquid’ bonds, network nodes work with a shady individualisation. The truth of the matter is that they are a series of disconnections that can be interconnected, but need not. Quoting Robert Dunbar, the human brain is suited for knowledge of up to 150 people, or 150 ‘meaningful relationships’. Facebook friends are thus a collection of acquaintances, unknowns, old friends, and intimates, muddled up with family too. Sharing information with such a vast array of people models an uneasy truth about the world…we know that we readily give ourselves over to methods of DIY surveillance, our phones, our loyalty cards, our Facebook accounts, but at the same time the fear is not ‘big brother is watching you’, it is the fear of exclusion, of being redundant, wasted, or forgotten that haunts the contemporary denizens of Bauman’s liquid modern world. This visibility is key and the network (both virtual and real world) is now tended with greater care than our community and cultural ties.
There is much more to this book. Some excellent debate on drones, remote surveillance, and even some revisiting of concepts from Modernity and the Holocaust. Notions of the value of technology, of the capacity for it to reflect human strengths and weaknesses, all provide stimulating reading.

    I am currently reading Liquid Surveillance by Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyon. It is another one of Bauman’s conversational books where we read a dialogue, this time between him and Lyon. This format actually works quite well in this debate as Lyon tries to lead Bauman into areas where he has not made unambiguous declarations. Such forays aren’t always as successful as one would hope, alas we are fascinated by Bauman not because of what he doesn’t say but because of what he does say.

    The points I wanted to make about this text resonate with its focus on technologies of surveillance. From an academic point of view the development of the network as something more important than community is really key. The Social Sciences are paying serious attention to social networking sites, but it almost seems that there needs to be an overarching  critical academic approach to it. something like ‘networkology’, that works with the foundations provided by sociology, anthropology, psychology and media and cultural studies, and then uses it to take account of how central social networking and media sites are in everyday life.

    Bauman makes the point that the network is not like community, there isn’t a shared outlook, or similar geography, a shared culture or national perspective. Think of your Facebook friends or your Tumblr followers, you are the only thing that all of them share in common. Accordingly with such fragile ‘liquid’ bonds, network nodes work with a shady individualisation. The truth of the matter is that they are a series of disconnections that can be interconnected, but need not. Quoting Robert Dunbar, the human brain is suited for knowledge of up to 150 people, or 150 ‘meaningful relationships’. Facebook friends are thus a collection of acquaintances, unknowns, old friends, and intimates, muddled up with family too. Sharing information with such a vast array of people models an uneasy truth about the world…we know that we readily give ourselves over to methods of DIY surveillance, our phones, our loyalty cards, our Facebook accounts, but at the same time the fear is not ‘big brother is watching you’, it is the fear of exclusion, of being redundant, wasted, or forgotten that haunts the contemporary denizens of Bauman’s liquid modern world. This visibility is key and the network (both virtual and real world) is now tended with greater care than our community and cultural ties.

    There is much more to this book. Some excellent debate on drones, remote surveillance, and even some revisiting of concepts from Modernity and the Holocaust. Notions of the value of technology, of the capacity for it to reflect human strengths and weaknesses, all provide stimulating reading.

     
     
  4. I have been thinking about Goffman and Facebook again. His analogy of the Front Stage / Back Stage, tends to fit really well with Social Media. I have posted on this subject before, (here too) and I find the subject of Facebook quite compelling.

    So we go to the subject of quantity right now, rather than quality. Isn’t that what Social Media is really all about? Maximising the network connections, rather than the quality of the information stored. Meaningful posts on Facebook are best acknowledged by an intimate few, whilst “I’m never drinking again”, or “the kids have destroyed the carpet”, get endless responses, comments, and likes etc. 

    So what would the Facebook experience be like if we had only the basic information that our postings were being read? No numbers, not quantified accounts of their reach? The gifs above give a nice idea. on Grosser’s page he also acknowledges how this would translate to other websites. “4,235 people like this” becomes “people like this”, and after all those numbers ultimately become meaningless, so why not dispense with them. They offer a very false understanding of what the “real” impact of anything “social” on the web is. 

    Or perhaps we could turn up the emotional impact (Boesel has a different suggestion on this). Rather than the increasingly vacuous “like”, we could have “4,235 people liked this”, “cried at this”, “laughed at this”, “were sarcastic about this”, “reconsidered some of their life decisions because of this”, “accidentally clicked the mouse whilst looking at this”.

    However, the real issue here is that I have changed the tense. “Liked” rather than “Like” shows us that “Social Media” is temporal, that things have happened and moved on. Perhaps not something that we want to know. Part of the mystique is that it is supposedly timeless, that way we spend more time on it?

    Have a look at this posting by Whitney Erin Boesel and also the product and page she makes reference to by Benjamin Grosser.

     
     
  5. Can’t avoid stereotypes…

    I always think that there is a rhythm to life. It often feels like you are corresponding to a piece of music and you are just learning how it unfolds. The last few days I have been unable to avoid the topic of stereotypes. The topic keeps recurring like a pattern. Listening to an interview on the Radio with Stuart Hall was where it began, even though I think I was pondering the subject a few days even before that. Then on a television show, in conversation with my wife, a question from my middle son, also in discussion with some of the guys in Chungking Mansions. Then this evening I come across an article on the everyday sociology blog whilst browsing my Google Reader.

    Only after finding the two articles below have I decided to give in an actually make a post about it. I love the BPS blog stories, some interesting research, some stuff a complete waste of time. Now perhaps the spectre of stereotypes can leave me alone for a little while?

    What does your choice of shoes say about you?

    What does you Facebook profile picture say about your cultural background?

     
     
  6. Facebook for Academics
Academia.edu is a platform that enables academics to share their work and keep up to date with new research in their areas of interest. It provides scholars with the ability to ask questions, share knowledge, and keep colleagues up to date with their general movements.
One fascinating aspect of the site is that once you are registered you can track who is looking at your work and also how people come to find your papers. I was very amused the other day when I looked through my stats to find that someone was directed to my profile via the search “paul o’connor the racist”,  but that is probably not as peculiar as some of the more lurid redirections I have had.
Many Facebook users would love to have this facility. Indeed I have often come across warnings and emails from people who signed up to schemes that promised this on their Facebook accounts only to have downloaded viruses, or worms. 
Academia.edu is certainly part of the open access zeitgiest and it is certainly a product not just of the technology but some changing attitudes in academia. I happen to really like it and best of all no farmville.

    Facebook for Academics

    Academia.edu is a platform that enables academics to share their work and keep up to date with new research in their areas of interest. It provides scholars with the ability to ask questions, share knowledge, and keep colleagues up to date with their general movements.

    One fascinating aspect of the site is that once you are registered you can track who is looking at your work and also how people come to find your papers. I was very amused the other day when I looked through my stats to find that someone was directed to my profile via the search “paul o’connor the racist”,  but that is probably not as peculiar as some of the more lurid redirections I have had.

    Many Facebook users would love to have this facility. Indeed I have often come across warnings and emails from people who signed up to schemes that promised this on their Facebook accounts only to have downloaded viruses, or worms. 

    Academia.edu is certainly part of the open access zeitgiest and it is certainly a product not just of the technology but some changing attitudes in academia. I happen to really like it and best of all no farmville.

     
     
  7. Facebook, Goffman & de Certeau: Visual Culture

    I wanted to post this after reading the ‘Everyday Sociology’ post about Goffman and the ‘front stage’ / ‘back stage’ take on social media and the Dharun Ravi / Tyler Clementi case.

    I originally wrote this in 2010 for my old blog

    ————-

    On browsing through Facebook the other day I got to thinking how Erving Goffman would respond to Online Social Networking. In many respects Facebook brashly lauds the findings in Goffman’s "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life". People are invited to manage their identities, strategically providing a polished example of their idealised selfs. The pictures of social celebrations, holidays, weddings, and children, convey how people would like to be imagined. The more mundane aspects of uploading photographs, editing profiles, and managing privacy settings are overlooked, yet they are really what makes the site tick. Only mobility is addressed, photos uploaded from phones are given credit as such, other ones, presumably from the home, or office are not given such acknowledgment.

    But ultimately ‘photos’, image, and appearance, is what the site is really about. This should be plainly understood from the name of the site. I recently overheard a friend speak to a colleauge whom they were not facebook friends with, and questioned why. The colleauge, who appeared on good terms with my friend replied ‘But I don’t want you to see all my photos’, implying that there were too many embarrassing images for a work colleague to witness. My friend replied ‘but the photos are the whole point’.

    To me Facebook signals something more that our often stated hyper connective globalised world. It corresponds with our delight in the visual which has be growing incessantly. In fact the whole success of Information Technology and the Internet relates to how it has been a visual exercise. Windows and Visual Basic enabled people entirely disinterested in computer technology the competence to use PCs. The rapid development in mobile technologies has similarly been facilitated by the visual dynamic, the ease of use, the intuitive.

    A Critique of ‘visual’ culture exists in everyday life social theory where some works and methodologies have addressed the dominance of the visual in Western culture. Michel de Certeau’s (1984: xxi) critique of visual culture as a destructive element in modern societies that measures ‘everything by its ability to show or be shown’ provides a challenge to Facebook in a very different way to that of Goffman. De Certeau caustically argues that ‘our society is characterized by a cancerous growth of vision, measuring everything by its ability to show or be shown and transmuting communication into a visualjourney’ (1984:xxi). It is here that my reference to Facebook seems most apt, but beyond this connection his argument evokes not only the pervaise use of new medias, but also contemporary thinking, even policy. Terms like transparency, inclusion, and trends such as cosmetic surgery, conspicuous consumption, and CCTV, are all tied to visual culture. Ultimately de Certeau asserts his concern that the use of the visual image is a form of robbery that both denies experience and makes people passive in their pursuits, ‘what is given to the eye is removed from the hand’ (1997:18). He urges us to consider how we can be involved when we thirst for only the images of lived experiences, rather than living. This assertion is something that Henri Lefebvre (1991:75-76) agrees with. For him the predominance of seeing and looking has become the mode through which people live and it has ultimately ‘turned into a trap.’ He argues that we work, consume, and understand ‘on the basis of image’.

    So what is absent in our modern culture? To begin with what is absent on Facebook? Perhaps listening? Les Back argues that ‘we need to find more considered ways to engage with the ordinary yet remarkable things found in everyday life’ (2007:7). By approaching research with methods that seek new ways to understand society, visually, physically, auditory and spatially, he argues that new ways of listening can be achieved. Back states that ‘social investigations that utilise a “democracy of the senses” are likely to notice more and ask different questions of our world’ (2007:8). In this way we need not revoke the visual but find ways to complement it.

    The social aspect of Facebook holds the promise that more can be made of these shallow connections and online identity management. It is the nexus built up by social groups that Facebook wants to exploit in dominating web use (see here also). The critique of the visual is much needed, however it is also something that should be balanced. As technology develops the visual may be supplanted for more advanced modes that enable a democracy of the senses in both the supply and reception of information and social connections.

     
     
  8. This is a thoughtful post about Erving Goffman’s idea of social presentation. The idea of the public ‘front stage’ and the private ‘back stage’. There is a lot of room for debate on this issue and social media. What is private and what is personal in the internet age. Furthermore as our lives are increasingly mediated by technology it also raises the issue of how one can have relationships with people via technology. Being intimate often means sharing private information, ‘back stage’ stuff. But who wants to share that stuff when it means being intimate with strangers and potentially employers and courtrooms?

    Think about some of the ways we interact with others today electronically: texting , emailing, Facebooking and Tweeting may seem like private ways of interacting. We might reveal “back stage” kinds of information using these new modes of communication, including personal details we wouldn’t want everyone to know.

     
     
  9. wsaadm:

    Zygmunt Bauman, Emeritus Professor at the University of Leeds and one of Europe’s foremost sociologists and author of ‘Liquid Modernity’ (Polity 2000), shares his thoughts on the ethical potential of two major social media.

     
     
  10. From Home Cooked Theory. Follow the link and then hop on to Academia.edu for the full article.