Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Andrew’s argument is based on the assumption that people are not aware of their situations in the social networks. What he believes is that the economy of Facebook--monetizing personal data--is invisible to Facebook users, so that private rights become a kind of commodities that can be traded between advertisers and marketers. However, do people really stand in a passive position in which Facebook compels them to expose their personal data? Do they really have a choice?

“People came to Facebook Nation for freedom for association, free expression, and the chance to present an evolving self” is similar to the social contract concept that people make when they choose to join a community. They voluntarily give up something for a civic life. In Facebook nation, things are same that people are voluntary in posting personal information for both the views from others and their own satisfaction. It’s their choice to share part of their privacy in order to have a social life. And that's the social contract of being a citizen in the Facebook nation. Besides, on Facebook, users have the option of making their profile private to strangers. The power of making decision really lies on the side of the Facebook citizens. Another point is that it's not only those marketer and advertisers are looking for personal information as commodities, Facebook users themselves are also consuming each other's personal lives. There is a demand in this virtual society of thoughts, photos and videos, thus people create them to meet the supply-demand. And in this system of creating, sharing and receiving information, everyone is better off since everyone gets what they desire from the social networks.
Last, if you are already a citizen of Facebook nation, you are free to quit, or you can choose to leave Facebook to another nation like Twitter. That's what people holding citizenships cannot easily achieve in real life. To me, rather than a nation or a market, each social network is a large workplace. Your labor is the sharing of your own information, and the salary--satisfaction and desire of a social role--is generated in the exchange of personal information.

1 comment:

  1. Yiyang, these are some astute observations about the nature of online social networks... you're right, not everyone using FB is completely ignorant of the site's monetization scheme, and people who click through EULAs and Terms of Use without reading them surely aren't totally unaware that they've just signed away many of their rights. This idea of sacrifice (or as you say, the Hobbesian social contract) in order to participate in a community is a healthier, more accurate way to conceptualize our participation in things like FB (and the linked ideas of "free labor" or "playbor"). We just need to avoid thinking of such sites and technology as a "win-win" situation. Some things (privacy, security, etc.) will inevitably be lost should we choose to participate in third-party mediated online worlds.