“Network Hegemony”

Last spring, I remember Wheaton College making the switch to Gmail. I remember not understanding the switch. I speculated that it was perhaps easier and more efficient than the previous Wheaton mail that had proved to be a bit cumbersome. After reading this section of Ulises Ali Meijias book, Off the Network—Disrupting the Digital World, it makes a bit more sense now.

Meijias writes, “The hegemony networks is insidiously evident in examples such as this one in which participation is presented as a fait accompli, in the absence of options and alternatives, and as an almost naturalized form of commodification in which a social act (sendng e-mail to students and colleagues) is almost invisibly transformed into a revenue-creating opportunity for a corporation” (7). Meijias’ concern was about the ‘privatization of education’. When universities and colleges partner with corporations, they are making a decision to work with those corporations.

Social-networkNetworks allow people to feel welcome, to feel as if they can express themselves, and to feel as if they have agency. Meijias highlights that there are inequalities in networks. The opportunities within networks are not entirely equal and the participation in networks is not entirely inclusive. Meijias writes, “The network thus represents a form of hegemony. A system of rule in which a minority can rule over he majority not by brute force or deception but through consensus” (8).

facebook-76531_640Networks shape individual opportunities for political action. The Quit Facebook Day event spurred a lot of self expression. It served as a resistance to the systematic controlling of individual expression through networks. Meijias claims, “Quit Facebook Day, as an expression on the desire to kill one’s networked self, illustrates the need for a language to talk about these tensions, to talk about the darker aspects of the relationship between platforms and individuals” (xii). Quit Facebook Day showed the power of individuals and ho individuals have the ability to advocate for themselves. Although this did not cause Facebook its company, it did raise some awareness.

The Quit Facebook Day website explains how and why quitting Facebook is both beneficial and a positive option. They acknowledge Facebook’s addictive nature as well as understand the reasons why people will not stop using it. The website it reminiscent of a substance abuse forum for treatment which speaks to the way in which Facebook has a large influence on the individual.

LikeI suggest here, that phatic communication is encouraged by networks. The nature of network communication is not to encourage intimacy, but rather to encourage immediacy and acknowledgement. The simple act of liking a photo, or status, or picture is an acknowledgement of ones online presence, not a conversation or even a sincere interest in another person’s reality. Phatic communication, a term coined by Bronislaw Malinowski refers to minimal and inconsequential exchanges between people without the purpose of engaging in prolonged conversation. Facebook and other similar social media sites encourage this.

The site brings ups some topics that we have discussed in the past about internet integrity, data, and how the internet is changing (ie: policies). But Facebook, similar to other networks, offers people the opportunity to express themselves and to share and connect with others. Meijias explains that networks have control and power while also giving individuals a certain type of freedom. Networks have the ability to manage social realities and levels of communication.

 

Mejias, Ulises Ali. Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World. Electronic Mediations, vol. 41. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

 

Images from Creative Commons.

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