“If one wants to understand a being completely, one must study it by considering it in its entelechy, and not it its inactivity or its static states” (Simondon, 2009, p. 19).

Ways of Thinking Technicity III: Framing Social Media

Here it goes some notes on the ways of thinking technicity from the concept and forms of appropriation of the term to the philosophical explanation of technical objects. What follows is a detailed appreciation of the term, which composes part of my ongoing research. This introductory text is divided in three parts:

Ways of Thinking Technicity I: The Philosophers of Technique

Ways of Thinking Technicity II: More Thoughts on Simondon

Ways of Thinking Technicity III: Framing Social Media

Let me then introduce some ways of thinking technicity (part III), in particular, questions and concerns about social media.

˚˚Technicity of Attention 

Tania Bucher (2012) turns to Michael Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality’ [1] to state the term technicity of attention, in so doing, she explains that platforms (e.g. Facebook) operate “as an implementation of an attention economy [2] directed at governing modes of participation within the system” (Bucher, 2012, p.1). In other words, Bucher places technicity as a form to govern participation on Facebook or as “a mode of governmentality that pertains to technologies” (op. cit, p.13). Technicity takes place (or it is realised) in three different forms: i) “an automated ii) anticipatory and iii) a personalised way of operating the implementation of attention economy on Facebook” (op. cit., p.2). The author looks at the details of the infrastructure of Facebook platform with the intention to understand how this platform generate and manage attention. In sum, technicity affords ways of thinking about the attention economy and modes of governing participation through the lens of technical conditions of the social media platforms.

+ Framing Social Media +

Now transposing Simondon´s philosophy to the current days, more properly saying to the culture of connectivity (Van Dijck, 2013) in which the social media platforms reigns as shapers of sociality (they shape society and are shaped by society), at the same time they are undertaken as not neutral platforms because they “intervene” (Gillespie, 2010) and “govern participation” (Bucher, 2012). Let´s say that technical objects can be represented by social media platforms, and the features and ways of being of these platforms combined with human actions (or interactions) composes technicity.

Technology = The Internet

Technical Object = Social Media Platforms

                                                       Technicity = ‘ways of being’ of social media                                                                      [combined  (or not)  with human and non-human actions] 

In this background, and underpinned by the work of Simondon (1980; 2009), let´s first undertake social media platforms as assessment of values, meaning we must understand these platforms in their entelechy – complete realisation or functioning, and they also should be perceived as an element, an individual and an ensemble. Where do social media allow us to see how it has been constituted? What are the subsets (and their modes) contained in social media platforms? What would be the permanent parts and the parts subject to replacement of these platforms? More questions would emerge if we take social media as method of concretization [3], such as: what would be the very schema of concretization of social media?; what makes social media exists as a regime of functioning?; what schemas (of concretization) can be shaped by the technicity of social media?; and, what schemas of concretization can be explored or studied through the awareness  of the inherent technicity of social media?

The awareness of a technical mentality upon social media platforms can facilitate the understanding of their inherent technicity and help to answer the questions previously posed. Although,  it is not my intention to respond all these questions in this post.

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The diagrams above introduce a degree of the complexity of the social media platforms; they need to be well known and measured in its functioning in order to be better comprehended; and, they have to be perceived as a structure and regime. In practical terms, we should (must!) grasp social media in its whole form and subsets, e.g. interface (front-end and back-end), usage culture and grammars of actions, API structure and politics, engagement practices, social buttons, and so on. In addition, we may perceive social media under different layers of reality that are constituted by the system (platform) itself in a continuous relationship with individual and collective actions.

Notes

[1] “Refers to the rationalities that underlie the ‘techniques and procedures for directing human behaviour’ (Foucault, 1997, p.81)” or better saying “mentalities or modes of thoughts that are immanent to ‘government’ or the ‘conduct of conduct’” (Rose et al., 2006).

[2] See Goldhaber (1997): The Attention Economy and the Net.

[3] Simodon (2009) describes concretization by using the GUIMBAL turbine example. At the first sight the idea of this turbine seemed absurd; the forced conduct of a dam was entirely held by an alternator with small dimensions, and it was precisely the small dimension that allowed “for the alternator to be lodged completely within the canalization, on the turbine axis itself” (Simondon, 2009, p.19). Four main objectives compose the turbine, they are described in its original patent:
[i]n a unit constructed in accordance with the present invention the turbine and generator are built together as a single unit for installation under water. The unit is preferably constructed for installation at the throat of a convergent-divergent conduit which conveys water to and conducts it from the turbine unit. An object of the invention is to provide a turbine and generator unit of the type described in which the space required is reduced to a minimum. Another object is to provide, in a turbine unit of the type described, improved means for preventing leakage of water into the unit. A further object of the invention is to provide, in a unit of the type described, improved apparatus for cooling and for lubricating the unit. A further object is to construct a unit of the type described which may be installed with its principal shaft either horizontal, vertical or at any oblique angle. (Guimbal, 1953, p. 4 apud Iliadis, 2015, pp.91-92).

In practical terms, “the alternator is putting in a casing filled with oil, which heightens the isolation and improves the thermal exchanges ensuring the lubrification of the different levels and preventing water from coming in”; here, the multifunctional character of the oil of the casing is the very schema of concretization that makes the invention exists, as a regime of functioning (Simondon, 2009, p.19).

References

Bucher, T. (2012). A technicity of attention: How software “makes sense”. Culture Machine, 13, 1-13, at http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/viewArticle/470 accessed 9 February 2016

Iliadis, A. (2015). Two examples of concretizationPlatform: Journal of Media and Communication, v.6 (2015), 86-95.

Gillespie, T. (2010). The politics of “platforms”New Media & Society, 12 (3), 347-364. doi:10.1177/1461444809342738

Simondon, G. (1980). On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. University of Western Ontario,at http://dephasage.ocularwitness.com/pdf/SimondonGilbert.OnTheModeOfExistence.pdf accessed 12 April 2016

Simondon (2009). Technical Mentality. Parrhesia Journal , 7, 17-27 at http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia07/parrhesia07_simondon2.pdf accessed 11 January 2017

Van Dijck, J. (2013). The culture of connectivity: A critical history of social media. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

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