Frictionless Sharing – Facebook and the Economy of Affect

Next week I will be presenting in the Internet Research 13.0: Technologies conference Salford, UK. My paper is a part of the Understanding Media in the Digital Age panel.

Here’s my abstract

*Frictionless Sharing – Facebook and the Economy of Affect*

An individual’s participation in social media can be defined by recourse to two regimes of understanding—explicit and implicit participation. Explicit participation is driven by individual motivation and desire and it includes different forms of content-providing activities such as sharing photos, participating in discussions or “liking” things. Implicit participation refers to the ways that a member of Facebook benefits from explicit participation. It involves the data produced when members share, communicate and interact. Through these categories it is possible to understand how users participate in social media generally and what kind of economic models follow (Schäfer 2011; Dijck 2009).

My paper argues that recent changes in Facebook indicate that a third category—affectivity—needs to be added to those of explicit and implicit user participation. I discuss affectivity as the third model of participation through a case study of Facebook’s frictionless sharing. On September 22, 2011 Facebook introduced Timeline. Timeline collects Facebook and other online activities and shows them in a member’s profile. One’s friends see what song one is listening to, where one is and what one does if one allows the platform to track and share one’s activities. While Facebook’s members have shared similar activities since the site’s inception, Timeline’s novelty lies in how the sharing begins to happen.

With Timeline, the activity of explicit participation is transformed into the passivity of frictionless sharing. Facebook’s algorithms monitor members’ activities and post them automatically to the Facebook Ticker window. Instead of merely mining a member’s data, however, Timeline allows Facebook to begin controlling what kinds of information spread, what will be encountered and what will be shared. The possibilities for contestation are clear and I discuss the battle over intensities with reference to the non-subjective autonomy of affect, as proposed by Brian Massumi (2002). Rather than reducing affect to subjective emotions, I conceptualize it as transmitted between and among both human and non-human bodies (Bennett 2010).

Works Cited:

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things . Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010.

Dijck, José van. “Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content.” Media, Culture & Society 31, no. 1 (2009): 41-58.

Massumi, Brian. “Notes on the Translation and Acknowledgments .” In A Thousdand Plateus , Gilles Deleuze and Guattari Félix, xvii-xx. London, New York: Continuum , 2004.

– – Parables for the Virtual. Movement, Affect, Sensation . Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2002.

Schäfer, Mirko Tobias. Bastard Culture: How User Participation Transforms Cultural Production . Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011.


One thought on “Frictionless Sharing – Facebook and the Economy of Affect

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