I’ve been reading a lot about social media and the maker movement. It’s been generally good stuff and I’ve actually enjoyed it, which isn’t always the case with some of the stuff that I’ve read for my doctorate. I’ve been thinking about why that might be the case, and I think it’s related to the fact that I see myself as a bit of a user of social media – I’m an insider, so a lot of what I’m reading is making a lot of sense to me. I’ve got the twitter and the Facebook and the blog and all those bits and pieces, so when they start talking about heavy users, I guess i fit into that category.
Anyway, Gauntlett talks al lot about the benefits of the ‘maker movement’ online and the way that the internet and social media provides opportunities that, in some ways, build upon much older traditions. No, seriously, he writes about the way that knitting circles can be hotbeds of democratic activity and the way that the act of crafting or making something – which has very old roots – are mirrored in the more modern act of ‘making’ today – although the knitting might have given way to things like mash ups and youtube videos and so on.
So far, so good, right? Well, not exactly. Christian Fuchs writes about the other side of social media. He argues that we have ignored the facts in the face of tech-euphoria. In reality, there is limited evidence that there is anything that is participatory or democratic about the social media. Fuchs gives the example of the Arab Spring, which has been called the first ‘social media’ uprising. Instead, he argues that this is not the case. While mobile phones were used, Twitter and Facebook had little to play in the events of that time. Instead, Fuchs argues that corporate interests have colonised the internet and social media, and what is required to understand the way this is happening is a critical theory of social media; that is, a theory that unmasks the way power influences social media.