[Air-l] viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

Christian Fuchs christian.fuchs at sbg.ac.at
Sun Jul 1 16:52:34 PDT 2007

i have read danah's article, found it interesting and like the 
conclusion that "myspace and facebook are new representations of the 
class divide in american youth".

my comment goes into another direction than the discussion thus far.

for me the important aspect of the paper is that class still counts. we 
should try to find ways of arguing which classes we find in contemporary 
informational capitalism and how class stratification has been changing 
in the age of the internet.

as i am mainly interested in and am dealing with theoretical aspects, i 
have tried to tackle the issue of class in informational capitalism some 
months ago.

i think if we speak about class, we need a clear definition of it that 
is theoreticall grounded.

basically there are two possibilities: a marxist notion of class 
connects the concept to exploitation, a weberian notion to 
life-situation, life-style, etc.

i find concepts of the first sort critical, of the second type 
affirmative and unsuitable (e.g. the class concepts of giddens, 
goldthorpe, etc).

marx applied the class concept to the social relation constituting 
surplus value production, erik olin wright added the ideas of skills 
exploitation (cultural) and organizational exploitation (political), 
both within strictly economic relations; bourdieu has a more general 
class concept based on the idea of the asymmetric accumulation of 
economic, political, cultural, and symbolic capital. hardt and negri 
recently developed a nice idea of class relations constituted by 
exploitation of the production of the commons.

if one can define reputation formation at the expense of others  ("i am 
smart cause i am on facebook, you are dumb because you are on myspace", 
etc) as symbolic exploitation that reflects underlying forms of economic 
oppressions then i am in favour of speaking of cultural exploitation and 
class formation in the case that danah has been describing, if one can't 
define what the exploited surplus that is produced by the subaltern 
groups and transfered towards the hegemonic groups in such cases of 
non-economic exploitation, then i am in favour of speaking of 
political/organizational and cultural forms of oppression, but not of 
exploitation and class-formation in danah's example.

i am actually arguing for several things:
* class should be connected to the idea of exploitation.
* we need a theory of class in the information age
* class counts
* we need neo-marxist theories of informational capitalism in order to 
come to grips with the theoretical underpinnings and concrete-real 
phenomena of today

the basic theoretical question about youth and class in myspace and 
facebook then is:

do the facebook-upper class kids exploit the lower class myspace kids? 
in which ways? (if so, we more go into a bourdieuian or wrightian sense 
of exploitation and class formation) if not, then it is a form of 
oppression or the division simply reflects that the parents of the 
facebook kids more tend to be economic exploiters and the parents of 
myspace kids more tend to be economic exploitees (which constitutes a 
class concept that stays within the more traditional economic concept of 





Univ.Ass. Dr. Christian Fuchs

Assistant Professor for Internet and Society

ICT&S Center - Advanced Studies and Research

in Information and Communication Technologies & Society


University of Salzburg

Sigmund Haffner Gasse 18

5020 Salzburg


christian.fuchs at sbg.ac.at

Phone +43 662 8044 4823

Fax   +43 662 6389 4800




Managing Editor of tripleC - peer reviewed open access

online journal for the foundations of information science:


Forthcoming BOOK:

Fuchs, Christian (2008) Internet and Society: Social Theory in the 
Information Age. New York: Routledge.


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