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Facebook and internet ecology

November 15, 2010

The OAC Online Seminar 1-12 November: Daniel Miller An Extreme Reading of Facebook is now over. My own contribution was modest, but here it goes anyway (for the record):

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Congrats to Keith Hart and the OAC team for this terrific session! Like Alexandru, I’m a latecomer. I was hoping to post earlier but haven’t been able to until now.

In a review article for the JRAI of four recent anthropological works on the internet, all completed or published in 2008 (Postill 2010), I reached the following conclusion:

what all four studies capture is not a totalising ephocal ‘logic’ but rather ever more differentiated Internet ‘technologies, practices, contexts’ ([Miller and Slater] 2000: 3). The evidence provided in the reviewed texts strongly suggests that the Internet – and indeed the world – is becoming ever more plural and that no universal ‘logic of practice’ … is gaining ascendancy at the expense of all other logics. Second Life has found its own niche within an Internet ecology that is expanding dramatically as millions of new users join and myriad new tools and practices are fashioned every year. This is an Internet niche that attracts, like all niches, certain kinds of people but not others. As someone who suffers from acute time poverty, I for one could only become an active Second Life resident if I turned such participation into a research project.

I would argue that Facebook, like Second Life, occupies its own niche within a still expanding internet, and that we should refrain from making epochal claims about its significance. It may be a big player platform, but it’s still one among many old and new games in town.

References

Miller, D. and Slater D. 2000 The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach. Oxford: Berg.

Postill, J. 2010. ‘Researching the Internet’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 16 (3), 646–650. Pre-publication version here.

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