Musings towards a poetics of social media 2

First of all, thank you to each of you who took the time to leave a comment on my last musings post. I have been thinking a lot about the comments on my first post on the poetics of social media where I asked:  “Does the imperative for immediacy in a media-saturated landscape mean that visual cues and language need to be simplistic and reductive to grab attention?”

The comments were erudite and provided me many new directions. The notion of acceleration appears to be at the heart of social media. Again it is a question of time. The idea that we are overwhelmed by information in our everyday lives is not new. Richard Wurman wrote an excellent book on this very topic back in 2000 called Information Anxiety 2.  His focus was on information architecture and good design. I feel that while good design can help, it is not a solution to this wicked problem. Actually, I think design may be a part of the problem.

The problem lies much deeper as pointed out by _Monocle_ :

“I think the question – and I don’t have an answer – is whether the acceleration and homogenization and simplification forces we see now are _greater_ than they’ve been in the past and if so, are they actually more dangerous. Or is it just a faster evolving system to the next thing?”

I feel this question  is tied in to an observation made by ZeWitness: “Reader frustration due to being overwhelmed is a reality.” Feelings of overwhelming quantities is a question of time and acceleration as well as of trying to navigate through space.

The Xtraman said,  “the shallow worship of hits and numbers of followers is diluting worthwhile content, which is being sacrificed in the name of immediacy. It’s dumbing down by any other name.”

Jim Lawrence said,  “The trick is not to treat your blog as a sausage machine but as a space where you can think, imagine and create. I would rather write something good that is only read by a few people than churn out any old nonsense just for the sake of pandering to a mass readership.”

I wonder, then, if  by participating in social media, are we guilty of being a part of a massive production line, feeding on itself where there is no time for thinking about quality, aesthetics and poetics, and does this really matter? My gut response is yes, we should make time to think about quality because while difficult to measure and define, it does matter a great deal, to me, anyway.

The terms ‘social media’ and ‘content’ are reductivist shorthand. By using them I have fallen prey to the forces of homogenization and simplification. However, before I unpack these terms, I want to take the time to digress and step back to look at the socio-historical context within which I live.  We are operating in a world that is driven by discourses of globalization, consumerism and commodification. Some would call it late capitalism, others see a new Middle Ages approaching. We have seen the disruption of the Western canon and the rise of relativism in art with the appearance of artists such as Damian Hirst. The canonisation of literature is now driven by huge publishing houses.

I recently watched a video of lecture by Ed Soja. It is a discussion of the Portman’s Bonaventura Hotel in LA. The gist of the interview was that these spaces are designed to emphasize the spatial over the temporal in order to set up a new set of relations with the experiencing subject to seduce them into submitting to authority.  The spatiality of postmodernity is fragmented, disorienting thus making us more willing to submit to authoritative controls in order to ease our discomfort. The ubiquity of surveillance technologies is another indicator of our submission. I feel this also applies to our virtual spaces including social media  where again the spatial is privileged over the temporal.

Perhaps being lost is something we should embrace with enthusiasm rather than searching for compasses and submitting to controls  in order to avoid feelings of dislocation and associated discomfort.


4 thoughts on “Musings towards a poetics of social media 2

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Musings towards a poetics of social media 2 « Marousia --

  2. Some remarks,

    The article gives a good overview of some different analyses and views on social media and the danger of loosing eloquence.
    In contacts and discussions with the young multicultural generation of our times, the so called overwhelming and rapid stream of information is not their problem, in any case they feel it’s just the reality and has to be accepted to be able to find ones way to deal with it.
    What the young generation looks for, are good examples, role models of people they admire or esteem, and how they treat the information dilemma. And it is my conviction that the other generations can be served in the same way. And then come general lessons of live in the picture. I mention: know and believe in your own values and ideas, be trustful and human, and realize that your own action or intervention can intervene in the freedom, ideas and believes of the others. In such an approach, you realize its your right and power to select, judge information from others without rejecting the other in personal. And then quantity and speed of information is no longer a burden but a chance tot find and choose your own road and give your own color and smell to the universe of diffenrent values.

  3. Hi Marsha,
    You have inspired some thought with me:
    There is a lot of dynamic anti-architecture present in social media networks and spaces. I find the transfers between physical social space and digital space fascinating. Such as mobile phones and groups online sites used in protest actions (see

    Here in Sweden social space is now totally permeated by social media and while as you point out, these are surveilled, they are deconstructed by users at the same time. In Sweden we are just now developing a surveillance system for public spaces, but the digital sphere is much more heavily monitored, although it is far from controlled by any single actor.

    Information ‘overload’ is a relatively minor part of everyday use for those who have not known anything different (so-called “digital natives”). It is more productive to look at how these users build pathways from regular use and stick to them. I like Sheldrake’s use of the concept of the chreode here, “A canalized pathway of change within a morphic field”. This includes RSS and newer aggregation devices such as Tweetdeck.

    What I have found is that, while they are immersed in the technology, the so-called digital natives are largely clueless when it comes to critical discourse and digital social media. Something like the concept of reading; what it is, how it is performed and what it results in, desperately needs to be updated in this respect. The allegory of architecture is useful as well to some degree, but it needs to be developed further and in a media specific sense. Spatial definitions are also accurate to a degree, but the concept of place needs to be added to the equation.


Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s