The moral economy of social media
Dourish, Paul & Satchell, Christine (2011) The moral economy of social media. In Foth, Marcus, Forlano, Laura, Satchell, Christine, & Gibbs, Martin (Eds.) From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen : Urban Informatics, Social Media, Ubiquitous Computing, and Mobile Technology to Support Citizen Engagement. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 21-37.
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In this chapter we take a high-level view of social media, focusing not on specific applications, domains, websites, or technologies, but instead our interest is in the forms of engagement that social media engender. This is not to suggest that all social media are the same, or even that everyone’s experience with any particular medium or technology is the same. However, we argue common issues arise that characterize social media in a broad sense, and provide a different analytic perspective than we would gain from looking at particular systems or applications. We do not take the perspective that social life merely happens “within” such systems, nor that social life “shapes” such systems, but rather these systems provide a site for the production of social and cultural reality – that media are always already social and the engagement with, in, and through media of all sorts is a thoroughly social phenomenon.
Accordingly, in this chapter, we examine two phenomena concurrently: social life seen through the lens of social media, and social media seen through the lens of social life. In particular, we want to understand the ways that a set of broad phenomena concerning forms of participation in social life is articulated in the domain of social media. As a conceptual entry-point, we use the notion of the “moral economy” as a means to open up the domain of inquiry.
We first discuss the notion of the “moral economy” as it has been used by a number of social theorists, and then identify a particular set of conceptual concerns that we suggest link it to the phenomena of social networking in general. We then discuss a series of examples drawn from a range of studies to elaborate and ground this conceptual framework in empirical data. This leads us to a broader consideration of audiences and publics in social media that, we suggest, holds important lessons for how we treat social media analytically.
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