Inauguration Lecture: Social Media and the Public Sphere

Christian Fuchs: Social Media and the Public Sphere
Inauguration lecture

February, 19, 2014. 18:00-21:00
University of Westminster. London W1B 2HW
309 Regent Street
The Old Cinema
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Social media has become a key term in Media and Communication Studies and public discourse for characterising platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, WordPress, Blogspot, Weibo, Pinterest, Foursquare and Tumblr. This lecture will discuss the implications of social media for power structures in society, the economy and politics. The lecture will first discuss the question “What is social about social media?”. Providing answers requires a social theory understanding of what it means to be social. The lecture will explore different concepts of the social and relate them to the realm of the media.Social media are an expression of the tendency that in contemporary society boundaries become liquid. The distinctions between the private and the public, play and labour (playbour, digital labour), work and leisure, production and consumption (prosumption), individual and collective action, online and offline, networking and autonomy, spatial distance and co-presence, anonymity and knowledge, presence and absence, appearance and disappearance, and visibility and invisibility, are blurring. This lecture will discuss what risks and opportunities these changes imply for society. Many political and academic discussions about the implications of social media for society are concentrated on the question of whether social media enhance or endanger various dimensions of the public sphere. Whereas some say that social media make the economy more democratic and have been used as tools of revolutions and democratisation (‘revolution 2.0’, ‘Twitter/Facebook revolution’), others hold that social media are first and foremost instruments of control and commerce. The lecture will engage with Habermas’ concept of the public sphere and discuss social media’s variety of implications for the structural transformation of the public sphere.Whereas we are accustomed to the idea of public service broadcasting, an understanding of how a public service internet could look and be advanced is largely missing. This lecture wants to contribute to the public discussion of how the social dimension of the internet and the media can serve the public interest, the concept of a public service internet and how ideas for specific organisation, policy and funding models could look like.


More about Prof. Christian Fuchs:

Christian Fuchs joined the University of Westminster as Professor of Social Media in February 2013. He was previously Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. His research focuses on digital media and society, media andsociety and information society studies. He is Chair of the European Sociological Association’s Research Network 18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research, editor of tripleC – Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, and co-founder of the ICTs and Society-Network. He is Vice-Chair of the EU COST Network, ‘Dynamics of Virtual Work’.

Christian Fuchs published more than 200 academic works, including the books Internet and Society: Social Theory in the Information Age (Routledge 2008); Foundations of Critical Media and Information Studies (Routledge 2011); and Social Media: A Critical Introduction (Sage 2014), Digital Labour and Karl Marx (Routledge 2014). He is co-editor of Internet and Surveillance: The Challenges of Web 2.0 and Social Media (Routledge 2012);Critique, Social Media & the Information Society (Routledge 2013, with Marisol Sandoval); and Social Media, Politics and the State: Protests, Revolutions, Riots, Crime and Policing in the Age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (Routledge 2014, with Daniel Trottier).

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