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Navigating Technomedia: Caught in the Web

For example, Posterous is a free Web service that allows users to post content onto various Web platforms— D blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thus, one could theoretically be posting to various Web outlets without even having access to the Web. Furthermore, what has emerged is the widespread ability to share links T on social network sites without having to be at the URL of the particular site. Beyond Facebook, nearly all content-oriented websites and blogs now have sharing widgets with links to Facebook, Twitter, and email so that the user can share the post quickly.

The technological development that is directly responsible for the delinking of social networks from the Web is API or application program- N ming interface.


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APIs are implemented by writing function calls in U the program, which provide the linkage to the required subroutine for execution. Thus, an API implies that some program module is IB available in the computer to perform the operation or that it must be linked into the existing program to perform the tasks.

TR PC Magazine n. API has been around since, well, computer programming itself. This allows for not only third-party developers to write programs for various social networks but it also facili- D tates communication between social network sites. Thus, there is now a slew of applications that support Facebook, applications that are not R developed or overseen by Facebook itself.

An especially genius, although largely impractical, application was achieved by Justin Wickett, who posted a video of him being able to turn off his T bedroom lights via Twitter on his account on Vimeo, a video-sharing site in the vein of YouTube but catered towards film makers.

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While this may be more than a bit impractical, it nevertheless shows how important opening up APIs have been for the current regime of social networking. Although, by default, all Twitter accounts are public, one can choose TI to make his or her Twitter account private, which would mean that one would have to approve requests to follow them individually.

TR Although the dynamic of self-presentation on social networks undoubt- edly still remains, as it cannot go anywhere since at root social life is always social performance, it has changed significantly in recent years. The profile IS is no longer at the heart of the interaction neither on Twitter nor, due to its recent changes to mimic the user experience of Twitter, on Facebook. The net effect of this shift in how social network sites work is a new form of sociality that, we suggest, is particular to the current moment in T the history of the World Wide Web and in social media more broadly.

This shift consists of two interrelated aspects: 1 liveness, or contemporaneity and 2 social propioception.

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Twitter, along with some other social network services, are, we believe, at N the forefront of this new sociality. In a article in Wired, technology writer Clive Thompson gives what O we view as the most apt analysis of the sociality of Twitter. But then again, why am I reading it? But it is banality and the mundane where Thompson locates the sway of Twitter and why so many people are self- O described addicts: N Individually, most Twitter messages are stupefyingly trivial. But the true value of Twitter. The power is in the surprising effects that come from receiving thousands of pings from your posse.

And this, it turns out, suggests where the Web is heading. This, as he notes, is necessary for bodily orientation, and is what keeps one from being a klutz, to use a Yiddish saying.

Additionally, this trend towards social proprioception can be most IB readily seen in particular events in which Twitter became particularly influ- ential in acting as a means of news sharing and even collective grief. Most of the news stories involved IS praising the pilot for landing the plane safely on the Hudson River and the crew for managing to get all passengers off the plane safely.

However, there was substory regarding where the first photos of the event came D from—Twitter. George Station on Staten Island to retrieve passengers of the plane. This picture was then widely circulated T through the mainstream news media channels that we usually expect to have been the scoop.


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With resources such as helicopters and long-lens O cameras, it was odd that a completely private citizen, that is, one not employed by the news media, was able to do such a thing. The company measures which sites have the most links pointing to them—crucial votes of confidence—and TR checks to see whether a site grew to prominence slowly and organi- cally, which tends to be a marker of quality.

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IS But the real-time Web behaves in the opposite fashion. R Thompson FO Thompson here touches on a couple of important points. First, the real- time Web, as exemplified by the place of Twitter in the US Airways plane crash, has shifted the authority orientation of a Google-dominated Web.

But when events such as a O plane landing on the Hudson River, or when the biggest global pop star in the last few decades reportedly suddenly dies, there is a massive push by N users of the Web to seek information, any information, on the event. Information, in this context, is not simply something worth reading or official reporting but anything that pertains to the event. For Thompson, this marks a different kind of Web than the one dominated by search. Search was synonymous with the World Wide Web. Yet today, the search wars have largely ended with Google and other Internet companies moving on to apps and cloud computing.

To paraphrase Edo Segal, search organized our memory; real-time Web N organizes our consciousness as quoted in Thompson So what does real-time Web mean for the slower, search-based Web of O which blogs and other page-based communities are constitutive part? Is the model of online sociality no longer blog communities and forums?

TI Online communities? For those of us who could remember, GeoCities was one of the first places where you could create a personal Web page, with an actual URL although these tended to be quite long and IS bulky. In fact, most did not know that GeoCities was still around. After its purchase by Yahoo! But when Yahoo! As Pheobe Connelly of The American Prospect writes: N The geographic nomenclature of GeoCities gave those new to the Internet a familiar shorthand for how social interaction could unfold. Sure, the tools might be different, but the concept of neighbors and like-minded groups of people, would, GeoCities promised, operate the same online as in the real world.

This question, of measuring connectivity, is one that has been around since, well, the beginnings of sociology as a discipline. N This typology has had a specific influence on sociological and popular discussions of the shift in social relations and modernity, and, implicitly, technology. Durkheim framed this question in terms of solidarity. For him, and confusingly for many students of sociology, mechanical solidarity described N the bond of traditional societies, which relied on kinship and familial ties.

Organic solidarity described modern or industrial societies.

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Community, therefore, remains as the default way of thinking about IB social relations. Well into the era of Web 2. Why the fascination with community? Is it simply because pre-Internet FO social relations were understood in such a way? But that cannot be since even the works of the sociologists just mentioned suggest that that community is long gone.

As mentioned earlier, since its inception, the World Wide Web has been T founded on a principle of potential connectivity conceived of chiefly as communication. This could also be said of other, much older, media such O as speech. As many scholars of media and writing have noted, writing was in large part considered to be a downgrade in relation to speech. Thus, he writes: N The historical fact is that the world of sound which, a we have seen is of course associated to some degree with the tactile and especially O the kinesthetic has proved in all cultures the most immediate sensory coefficient of thought.

One can readily discern several TI reasons why this is so: connections between sound, thought, and communication; connections between sound, thought, truth, and U time; connections between the structure of predication itself and vocalization. IB Ong , p. The psychological reasons for this are by no means all understood. But one reason is certainly the interior- D izing quality of sound and thus of voice. Voice, as has been explained, manifests interiors as interiors and unites them.

Ong , p. Indeed, to be able to communicate is the basic assumption in Internet use. Thus what characterizes the connectivity particular to Web 2. Although Daily Kos is IB not what one thinks of as a typical social networking site, there is no doubt that it is, indeed, a social network. TR At the heart of the Daily Kos, as Carlo Scannella argues, is the eventual mundane nature of the experience of the interacting there. The participation that is facilitated by Web 2. Therefore, the figure of the Japanese otaku, the obsessive kid who is on the computer or O video game system all day what is so different about an adult at work who is on the computer all day?

It is because social formations on Web 2. This reality has not ever really existed.

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It is a N false nostalgia that harks back to a time when social differences did not exist. TR In a rather bizarre twist of fate, as we have argued in this chapter, it seems the opposite has come to be in light of Web 2. The individual or user is perhaps hyper-socialized. And without a doubt, there have been IS significant critiques expressing concern for the encroachment of the soli- tude of the individual psyche due to the ever-growing complexity of social networks.

This is discussed in greater detail along with other lines of criti- D cisms of Web 2. Social networking is no longer something that one does sitting in front of a computer but rather when walking down the street, FO providing a very different phenomenological experience for the user.

It is to this that we will turn in the following chapter. References T Arrington, M. Twitter and a Classic Picture, dot. U Howe, J.