I’m really looking forward, next week to giving an opening keynote at an event our Postgraduate Research students have put on. Later in the day, @nikirivers and I will be exploring our ideas around resilience, and there’ll be a range of topics, from Anarchy to horror films (I’ll be hiding my eyes during the latter). The event is sponsored by the Being Human Research Priority Area at the University of Gloucestershire. The conference is entitled How Hidden Narratives Challenge Authority.
For the initial talk, I have called my session ‘The curious case of social media’. I intend to be fairly sceptical about the role and potential of Social Media in challenging authority.
While I will not rehearse here the content of the talk,* I will perhaps note what I am not going to discuss next week. The angle I won’t be taking, as a critique of Social Media , is the tired trope typified in this ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ image. The people on their phones aren’t staring blankly into nowhere. They are looking at something, and in the case of Social Media, that something is linked to a person. Social. The clue is in the name.
Of course, some uses are banal, trivial, narcissistic, self-regarding and annoying. Just like some people. Other uses are witty, sharp, insightful, clever, dumb and funny, and impressive. You know. Like some people.
In my life, books have been the gateway to amazing worlds, and ideas. Films, at least a few, leave me sat anti-socially, in the dark, ignoring everyone while stuffing my face with pix-mix (very zombie like), while guffawing like an idiot, or crying like a baby. Generation Xers, like me, run marathons (or not) with earphones in, cut off from their fellow humans. When a hashtag, or idea, on twitter, for example, captures something particular, specific – lots of clever, interesting people jump on it (e.g. ‘This is The Future Liberals Want‘, as one some enjoyed..) This can be serious or trivial and funny, or a heady blend of both. Social Media is not, of course, just a tool, the form of tools does make a difference, and no technology is ideologically neutral, but let’s not fall into lazy presumptions about Social Media users.
*social media looks like it might challenge power, give voice to the voiceless, make media horizontal and less hierarchical, but then we find lots of counter, and rather terrifying, examples, but at the last I pull some hope-shaped rabbits out of my hat..**
**Some of these are the amazing work (an example here) that academics and students are doing in developing critical digital engagement