Status Update (2013) focuses on the integration of market logics into social media


A Jan. 6, 2014 Public Books article is entitled “What’s so social about social media?” Excerpts from the article, which I found of interest, are included at the end of this post.

A Jan. 17, 2014 New York Times article is entitled “Technology is not driving us apart after all.”

A Jan. 27, 2016 Toronto Star article is entitled: “New study shows you probably only have four real Facebook friends: Online social environments do not help users broaden friend groups or increase size of social networks, new study says.”

A Feb. 3, 2016 article is entitled: “Social Media: Destroyer or Creator?”

[End of Updates]


Alice E. Marwick notes in Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, & Branding in the Social Media Age (2013) that her ethnographic study of technology innovation in San Francisco is not a rejection of social media.

Active on Twitter and sharing updates on her website, Marwick is herself a technology enthusiast.

Close to the scene but not too close

Ethnography is a form of research in which an observer’s frame of reference drives how a person deals with evidence.

Marwick notes that ethnographic research requires a close acquaintance with the scene that one is studying – and a requisite distance from it.

The author remarks (Introduction, Note 13, pp. 294-295) that she is too close to the New York social media scene to write about it with objectivity. Accordingly, the fieldwork for Marwick’s doctoral thesis, and the book that resulted from it, was conducted mainly in San Francisco, where she was not as thoroughly immersed in the scene.

Factories provided employment for many people

The history of industrialization and deindustrialization has been widely commented upon. Marwick notes (p. 12) that the technology of public schooling as designed in the early 1900s had the purpose of regulating children to work in factories. They learned to respond to bells, walk in lines, and fill their days with repetitive tasks. Her reference on the topic is Raymond E. Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the Social Forces that Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools (1962).

The latter study brings to mind The Cult of Efficiency (2001) by Janice Stein. Bronwyn Drainie reviews the book in the December 2001 issue of Quill & Quire:

  • Here’s Stein’s example of efficiency cultism that will always stick in my memory: Forty years ago, General Curtis LeMay told President Kennedy that the U.S. had an 18:1 superiority over the Soviet Union in nuclear warheads, so it was time to launch an all-out missile attack. “At most,” he said, “the United States would lose only three cities.” Kennedy’s inefficient response? “Even one city is too much.”

[End of excerpt]

The Fog of War (2004) provides a good overview of Curtis LeMay’s career as a military leader.

Web 2.0 technologies are similar in function to the early 1900s model of public education, according to Alice Marwick

Marwick argues in Status Update that, in alignment with public education as described by Raymond Callahan, social media technologies similarly prepare students to regulate their lives in line with business ideals.

“This book argues,” she notes (p. 12), “that Web 2.0 technologies function similarly, teaching their users to be good corporate citizens in the postindustrial, post-union world by harnessing marketing techniques to boost attention and visibility.”

Market logics

Given Marwick’s reference to market logics, I did a Google search for the term, which led me to a December 1998 article by Pierre Bourdieu in the English Edition of Le Monde diplomatique entitled “The essence of neoliberalism.”

According to Bourdieu, the neoliberal discourse would have it that “the economic world is a pure and perfect order, implacably unrolling the logic of its predictable consequences, and prompt to repress all violations by the sanctions that it inflicts, either automatically or – more unusually – through the intermediary of its armed extensions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the policies they impose: reducing labour costs, reducing public expenditures and making work more flexible.”

[End of excerpt]

Neoliberalism used not as a critique but as an indication of governmentality

As I understand, the free market entails not just one but several logics, which in turn have a relationship to neoliberalism.

Status Update defines neoliberalism as an economic philosophy that privileges the unfettered functioning of the free market. In a balanced and concise series of texts, Marwick offers a clear and cogent overview of the concept.

She uses neoliberalism not as a critique but as a means by which to address the topic of governmentality (p. 12):

  • Regardless of my personal feelings about late capitalism, using “neoliberalism” as a critique is counterproductive given its contentiousness. So I use “neoliberalism” to indicate a form of governmentality, specifically the theory that the free market has become an organizing principle of society. Governmentality, as defined by Foucault, includes “the totality of practices, by which one can constitute, define, organize, [and] instrumentalize the strategies which individuals in their liberty can have with regard to each other.” In other words, governmentality is a way to govern people, a technique that determines the strategies available for people to use in interpersonal relationships and self-expression. Political power becomes intertwined with our ideals of ourselves, and the very idea of what it means to be human. This governance takes place through the creation and popularization of technologies that encourage people to regulate their own behavior along business ideals.

[End of excerpt. The footnotes appearing in the original text have been omitted in the excerpt.]

History of neoliberalism

In a chapter note (Introduction, Note 26, p. 296) Marwick provides a brief survey of the history of neoliberalism. Among the studies she mentions are:

Tribe, Political Economy of Modernity

Boas and Gans-Morse, Neoliberalism: From New Liberal Philosophy to Anti-Liberal Slogan

The latter article can be downloaded at no cost.


I’m very impressed with this book. I’m pleased I’ve been able to borrow a copy of it from the Toronto Public Library.

Additional updates

A Jan. 3, 2014 New York Times article is entitled: “In Praise of (Offline) Slow Reading.”

A Jan. 10, 2014 CBC article is entitled: “Self-employment, the cash-starved Canadian Dream: Don Pittis.”

A Jan. 10, 2014 CBC article is entitled: “Baby boomers not to blame for youth unemployment: Economy expands to provide work, but ‘lump labour’ theory persists.”

A Jan. 11, 2014 CBC article is entitled: “Leaner CES a showcase for innovations that challenge status quo: Gone is stodgy venue where tech behemoths rolled out unimpressive iterative products.”

As noted at the beginning of this post, A Jan. 6, 2014 Public Books article is entitled “What’s so social about social media?” In the article, Melissa Aronczyk notes that:

  • Perhaps the most egregious thing about social media is that it suggests that other (read: pre-Internet) communications technologies and formats somehow were not social. Yet the history of mediated communication is always entwined with the society that fosters it. New technologies are invested with lofty ideals of civilizing power, geographic domination, the spread of democratic principles, and even world peace. From the telegraph to the telephone, from the bound book to the newspaper, each new medium carried within it the dreams of its era. Remarkably, these dreams often converge.

Melissa Aronczyk notes as well, that:

  • For something to become a standard, a surprisingly complex number of things have to happen. It has to become so ubiquitous, so thoroughly a part of our everyday lives, that we no longer question it or even wonder how things could be otherwise. But standard-setting is never a neutral enterprise. It is always the product of delicate negotiations between different interests: engineers, standards-setting organizations, corporate CEOs. And it is therefore always political, in that it congeals technical, aesthetic, and industrial choices in ways that benefit some at the expense of others.

A May 26, 2016 London School of Economics article is entitled: “From the Third Way to the Big Society: the rise and fall of social capital.”

The Net’s costs

A Jan. 17, 2015 Economist article is entitled: “Net costs: The internet causes inequality, selfishness and narcissism, according to a new book.”

In its review of The Internet is Not the Answer (2015) by Andrew Keen, the article concludes:

“The internet has certainly contributed to a gross increase in inequality in some areas of society. Yet the world is still in the middle of a technological revolution, and it is hard to see the picture when you are inside the frame. Unbridled techno-Utopianism shows only the revolution’s benefits, and is dangerously incomplete. It is handy, therefore, to have sceptics like Mr Keen around. But the depth of his distaste for it all risks missing the point by exaggerating the net’s many costs.”


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *