Looking for solid ground
Project Description and Procedings by Daniël Verhoeven, contact
1_0 History Short
The first inspiration for this project is a text of Paul Stubbs:
Paul Stubbs (1998) ‘Conflict and Co-Operation in the Virtual Community: eMail and the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession’, Sociological Research Online, vol. 3, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/3/3/7.html> (PDF)
Paul Stubbs worked with Zamir in Zagreb in Croatia, the text is the first sociological approach of computer mediated communication in a war zone. Meanwhile I was a system administrator of KnoopPunt, partner of Zamir, both members of APC. It was difficult to grasp what was happening at the time. It took Paul Stubbs about 6 years to produce a second analysis on Zamir:
Stubbs, Paul, The ZaMir (for peace) network: from transnational social movement to Croatian NGO? // Internet Identities in Europe / Brooksbank Jones, Anny and Maire Cross (ur.).Sheffield: ESCUS, 2004. str. 70-84 (PDF).
Looking for solid ground I wrote an essay on constructivist epistemology in 2003, but only in 2006 I was able to write down a first analysis of conflicts in cyberspace. This marks the start of the proposed project. Having constructivism in mind, it was inspired by the discovery of mirror neurons, pragmatic linguistics and communication psychology of Paul Watzlawick. You find both on my website.
At that moment, weblogs who had attracted a lot of attention during some 3 à 4 years started to fade away. And then the Facebook epidemic started to spread in cyberspace as a plague (September 2006). Again it took several years before Facebook came under scrutiny of critical thinking. Then in December 2010 a sparkle in Tunisia led to the Jasmine Revolution, immediately followed by the uprising in Cairo on Tahrir Square, January 25, 2011. In Spain Democracia Real Ya! occupying the Plaza del Sol on 15th of May, instigated Occupy Wall Street. All these social movements in the real world, made use of social media in some extend. A wake up call? Finally Geert Lovink (Institute of Network Cultures/HvA, Amsterdam) and Korinna Patelis (Cyprus University of Technology, Lemasol) proposed to found the mailinglist “unlike us critical research & alternatives in social media” on 15 July 2011.
BTW, it is a misconception that social media can play a crucial role in protest movements. Social media can make people angry about something quicker, they can easily share their message with a large group of people and they are cheap, but in the roaring sixties there were no social media to support protest, though protest was worldwide. There are some easy to understand reasons for that. Autocratic governments learn fast and their budget to play the public is many times larger than that of the protesters. Use of social media where privacy and security are most of the time inexistant gives the protesters away to the police of these governments. Every time protesters or opponents are confronted with a more powerful enemy or an enemy that is more skillful in using social media they will go to the wall (Jen Schradie).
In several blog posts the past years I’ve been looking for insight in the influence of social media on equality/inequality in the real world not grasping the whole picture. These text can be found mainly on the blog “tactical use of internet for communities“.
2_0 Period and Locality
Longitudinal investigative journalism project interwoven with plenty of other activities in the real world, also using or at least being present on social media. See it as slow science.
Main locality of investigation is Belgium and the Netherlands. Main locality of real world experience is the city of Ghent in Belgium..
3_0 Main Project Description
Research on the empirically verifiable interplay between “social media” and “real world communities”, creating inequality or not. My vision on the impact of social media is influenced by critical authors as Manfred Spitzer, Sherry Turkle, Sarah Kiesler, Evgeny Morozov, Geert Lovink, Christian Fuchs, Mayo Fuster Morell, Zeynep Tufecki, Micah M. White, Jen Schradie and alike. When some limited experiments using social media as a secondary support had catastrophic results I became convinced that social media are useless and even harmful. In the end it felt like a mental concentration camp I had volunteered for.
As a consequence I stopped all communication activity on social media in 2018. Sporadically I might use social media as broadcasting channel. I’m aware that this is a radical view point, that’s why I decided to measure this hypothesized effect. I finally found a way to do this with participation of the general public. See research concept
Anyway I’m convinced that social media use should be reduced significantly while face to face communication should be promoted. Capacity building to meet face to face is a task for every citizen.
The degree of social inequality is seen by me as a function of the social structure. The example is a fragment of the causal coherence between the activities and states of hunter-gatherers for production, distribution, communication, social behaviour and psycho-pedagogical attitudes in function of their political structure, a deliberative democracy.
For more see unvirtual.us