Content Creators and the Cultural Realm

Manuel Castells’ article “Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society” does an effective job of explaining networks in a social context by taking into account the social structures that can potentially impact the way networks are constructed. Where Latour’s Actor-Network theory falls short in these considerations, Castells considers societal implications in relation to social change, and in terms of the deconstruction and reconstruction of networks.

The concept of power and experience being individualized in practice is an important concept to consider for my MRP topic surrounding the neo-nazi resurgence in light of the election of Donald Trump. For example; there exists an entire network surrounding his election. From supporters to protestors, credible news outlets, fake news, and republicans to democrats, all of these individual actors and more exist within Trump’s network. What stood out to me in terms of this was when Castell’s said “technology plays an essential role in framing the relationships of experience.”

 My interpretation of this statement is that technology enables these relationships of experience to come together in a tangible form. For example, blogospheres, Facebook pages, and Instagram communities all represent materialities of potentially shared experiences by the individual members of these communities, or networks.

An example that I would like to demonstrate of these networked connections exists on Instagram. I follow multiple young, feminist meme accounts who create content based mostly on their experiences that I find I relate to. All the accounts that I follow have similar perspectives, based on their feminist values and position as women in society, and for that reason, I feel that I belong as a part of this network.

My membership to this network is physically reinforced by the fact that I follow them on a tangible platform, and the network is visible to me in that many of the accounts repost from one another, or collaborate on new content.

On the other hand, within the framework of Instagram, there exists an active, (but less popular) network of alt-right content creators. Again, these creators repost and share similar experiences, however they are not experiences that I share.

These two networks exist within the same cultural realm – a culture organized primarily around an integrated system of electronic media (Castells 12). In this case, the accounts represent a space of politics, and they are perfectly demonstrative of how enclosures of communication can allow networks to include or exclude specific nodes.

Networks surrounding political ideologies often function as echo chambers because as Castell’s points out “all that is in the network is useful and necessary for the existence of a network.” Points that do not support feminist values, or alt-right values, will not appear in their respective networks – they are phased out and rearranged to strengthen the values they aim to represent.

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2 Comments

  1. Awesome points. I believe this can be seen as a critique of our “network society”. Are the platforms that enable these interactions really creating opportunities for interaction when aspects of many ideologies reject any legitimacy from opposing/other ideologies? Although the these opportunities for interaction do technically exist and do increase chances of interaction, it can be argued that they mostly exist as platforms that will perpetuate and reinforce any ideology a user will enter with. Many platforms like instagram, twitter, stumbleupon, etc., offer pages to follow or subject matters to consume based on the preferences that the user inputs initially. This keeps users within the networks they are already a part of, and would likely only strengthen any ideologies they enter with, by exposing them to other people/other content they already relate to.

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  2. This is a very interesting post and I wonder if there are more technological networks and nodes that could be pulled from it. Personally I have been thinking about the tablet and it’s use in art. While the ability to draw is not being compromised or enhanced by having a drawing tablet, it does make shifting the art from from physical to digital much easier. In this way it makes creating art somewhat faster and allows artists to respond to current events with alacrity. For example, this past week’s ‘Muslim Ban’ in the USA prompted an outpouring of art in support of the ensuing protests (http://distractify.com/news/2017/01/30/refugee-ban-cartoons).
    One of the other reasons I find this interesting is directly looking at your last paragraph discussing the echo chamber idea, is it maybe being extended by social media networks? I ask because I learned about the art protest because an artist I support, Karen Hallion(http://www.karenhallion.com/), drew one of these cartoons. Karon Hallion is not know for being a political or feminist artist she draws pop culture mashups – often Disney and Doctor Who mixes. I do not have a specific answer to my question, but perhaps the echo chamber is more permeable than Castells seems to posit?

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