The Smartest Thing I'll read this week:
(blog discussion post by Ken Rufo on social networks, from here:
I think that the compulsion you’re identifying and the way you see people treating social networking may have more to say about the structure of sociality than it does the structure of digital or virtual life. I know you’re inclined toward the chemical/physical possibilities, but you’ve got to make a choice here – does the digital deform, transform, or reform the social on the one hand, in which case the difference between conventional sociality and online social networking can tell us something about how subjectivity and communication obtain when digital, or on the other hand, does the digital reflect an as of yet unreflected dimension of sociality, that was always there, and thus not apparent, in which case the difference between digital and analog/chemical processes represent a potential to thicken our understanding of sociality as a phenomenon and conceptual apparatus.
Obviously the two mutually constitute each other (no material practice acts upon a concept without being acted upon in return), but for the purpose of a descriptive or diagnostic accounting of a phenomenon like social networking, critique has to involve some initial designation of the ontological direction of causality (”influence” might be a better word). It’s possible, for example, that what we might call “chemical networking” only becomes apparent and a problem at the moment that alternative viable networks come to fruition (Peters makes a similar argument about the “problem of communication” surfacing around the 1850s and later, not before).
It’s also possible that the archiving impulse we’re seeing so clearly in digital social networking has always been at the core of sociality, but that what we’re seeing with social networking, or more accurately with the digital archiving of expression included within most social networks, is the perfection of an impulse that was once negotiated as a series of imperfect recollections (”remember that time when you …”) dispersed across a group. As with many a traversing of the fantasy, perfecting the desire often has negative repercussions, which is what you’re keying on here, but I’m not sure the network fever is new, as much as advanced.
--I'll be thinking about this all week.