[Air-L] AAA Panel on Social Media & Anthropology

Alice Marwick amarwick at microsoft.com
Tue Feb 14 11:19:21 PST 2012

Jordan Kraemer (jkraemer at uci.edu<mailto:jkraemer at uci.edu>) and Charles Pearson (charles.a.pearson at gmail.com<mailto:charles.a.pearson at gmail.com>) are organizing this panel for the American Anthropological Association annual meeting this fall (11/14-11/18 in San Francisco). Please contact one of them if you are interested. Thanks!


Towards an Anthropology of Social Media

By the end of 2012, Facebook stands to have one billion global users, while two hundred million tweets (Twitter posts) are sent daily and YouTube users upload 60 hours of video each minute. Alongside these well-known online platforms, numerous smaller ones attract users in different regions across the globe and in many languages (such as RenRen in China or Orkut in Brazil). So-called "social media" are emerging as an ubiquitous facet of everyday life for both anthropologists and people with whom we work. In contrast to this diversity of users and practices, however, popular discourse often portrays social media in binary terms. While some accounts warn that emergent media will further social isolation, others frame social media in terms of celebratory cyber-utopianism. In such enthusiastic narratives, social media provide a universally democratizing space for communication, offering users new means for civic participation while collapsing distinctions between producer and consumer or local and global. Indeed, social media have even been heralded for eradicating modes of alienation.

Anthropologists are uniquely positioned to study the particularities of emerging media platforms and practices in global and transnational contexts. Yet an anthropology of social media must contend with the challenges of studying rapidly transforming global communication networks and social practices. On one hand, since users may be radically distributed and place-ness may be difficult to locate or identify, how can we rethink single- and multi-sited methods to address the spatial dimensions of social media practices? On the other, what are the increasingly informational aspects of new modes of expression and circulation? This panel will address the specificities and particularities of social media and emerging modes of production. Whose sociality do social media represent, articulate, or facilitate? How are certain forms of connectivity and interactivity privileged, and under what circumstances? In short, what are the concerns and possibilities for an emerging anthropology of social media?

Alice E. Marwick, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher
Microsoft Research New England
Desk: 857.453.6330
Cell: 206.650.9109
amarwick at microsoft.com

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