Thursday, March 11, 2010

How Zeitgeist comes into being online

Social network sites have created another public space in addition to the real life one we live in. People’s relationships online are dramatically different from face-to-face friendships because our identities have changed and our communication methods have changed when we are engaging with others online. This is because we are facing an audience whatever we do on the cyberspace of social network sites. He scale of the audience has expanded as well: it includes the people who “did witness” my activity, and also the people who “might witness” my activity. (Danah Boyd) This potential audience, and the to some extent permanent traceability of my activity, motivate users to consciously build an identity when they are using these sites. In other words, they are creating an identity, in order to be someone they want to be, rather than who they really are. In Danah Boyd’s example of testimonial on Friendster Profile, “Corey’s friend is writing a purportedly private message to him in a public space for others to view. This message will be different from a message that was sent only to Corey, because the audience is in fact not only Corey, but all the friends on Friendster.

The massive information exchange through these sites invokes a “social reality” as well. Danah Boyed uses the satirical Top 10 list of “How to be Cool On Myspace” to argue that “while this post is meant to dismiss these common practices, when these posts are spread around, they simultaneously reinforce these norms in the process of mocking them.” It is exactly the process of spreading the public interest, social norms, and public opinions that reinforce these common practices. This is how Zeitgeist comes into being, and how Yellow Journalism is able to change the real life reality by publicizing mainstream opinions, and how public annihilates individuals --- “public is where you are not”. In this sense, it doesn’t seem too abrupt to argue that democracy and publicity is “dangerous”.

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