A Debordian analysis of Facebook

Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 39 (3):59-68 (2009)
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Abstract

Facebook, the second largest social network on the Web with around 60 million members, is one of the fastest-growing and best-known sites on the Internet today. With the U.S. now accounting for only about a third of all Facebook users, we are starting to see a gradual shift away from its original demographic of college-age users. Very surprisingly, indeed, in the past months Facebook has been literally invaded by Italians, Which is the reason for this huge success of Facebook? One of the reasons is that clearly young Italians' discontent and frustration with the current political situation and with their political representatives is finding in the Web a channel to let youth voice be heard. Facebook is also a media for channelling Italians' emotions, self representation, and symbolic environment at the same speed of their telefonino : indeed Facebook not only provides multimedia content and a high interactive environment, but it also provides personalised features. In other words, it is my personal content which is available on the web and it make me feel as if I was in the centre of a virtually worldly networked stage. We will argue Facebook is realizing what Guy Debord calls "the invasive forces of the 'spectacle' - "a social relation between people that is mediated by images": Facebook is seen as an alternative tool able to amplify an individual's alienation and narcissism, which, are a consequence of the mercantile form of social organization which has reached its climax in capitalism. Under Marxist theory, Facebook does not appear what Jaron Lanier claims to be collaborative communities. We finally argue that Facebook is not a promising example of a new shift from capitalism to a new form of economy based on openness, peering, sharing and global action -- which they called Wikinomics; but rather new disguised forms of advanced capitalism aimed at eroding space to more challenging modes of Internet collectivism.

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