Web 2.0 Technologies of the Self
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Although no scholarly consensus exists on the issue, the claim that a substantive reconfiguration of the Internet has occurred in the beginning of the 2000s has settled firmly in public common sense. The label tentatively chosen for the new turn in the medium’s evolution is Web 2.0. The developments constituting this turn have been contemplated from different perspectives in technical and business publications (O’Reilly 2005), in treatises on “convergence” or “participatory” culture (Jenkins 2006; Jenkins et al. 2009), and could be usefully interrogated by means of political economy concepts such as the “social factory” and “free labor” (Terranova 2004). Marked, or rather symbolically constructed, by these discursive pickets lies a field of practice that the members of the participatory culture, the “produsers” (Bruns 2008) of open journalism, blogs, social networking sites and other characteristic Web 2.0 applications inhabit and animate with their everyday thought, decision making and action. This paper undertakes a theoretical exploration of the user practices emerging and consolidating around the new technological and organizational models making up Web 2.0. It is informed by a qualitative study of bloggers and Facebook users conducted through focus group methodology, although the concrete empirical data are not presented here. Rather, the analysis employs the concept of “technologies of the self” by Foucault (1988) as a heuristic device in order to situate Web 2.0 use, first, in a long history of culturally evolved forms of self-constitution and, second, in a complex matrix of relationships with other types of technologies, namely, those of production, sign systems and power. This conceptual choice, we argue, furnishes a study of Web 2.0 use, which holds in balance its liberatory potential and its susceptibility to new forms of domination, rationalization and commodification.
KeywordsWeb 2.0 Foucault Technologies of the self Critical theory Social networking sites Blogs
The development of the ideas presented in this article has benefited from feedback and discussions in the context of the symposium Cultural Technologies/Culture of Technologies at Södertörn University, Stockholm held in October 2009, the 4S Annual Conference in Washington, DC, 2009 and the inspiring workshop “Who Am I Online?” organized in Århus in May 2010.
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