“Through its clever structure, Disconnect affectively lures the reader as Tero Karppi tells a convincing story of how social media sets the tone, mood, and modality of our everyday existence. Compellingly written, this is a must-read modern tale of engagement and disconnection.”

— Zizi Papacharissi, author of Affective Publics: Sentiment, Technology, and Politics

Disconnect: Facebook’s Affective Bonds

No matter how pervasive and powerful social media websites become, users always have the option of disconnecting—right? Not exactly, as Tero Karppi reveals in this disquieting book.

Pointing out that platforms like Facebook see disconnection as an existential threat—and have undertaken wide-ranging efforts to eliminate it—Karppi argues that users’ ability to control their digital lives is gradually dissipating.
Taking a nonhumancentric approach, Karppi explores how modern social media platforms produce and position users within a system of coded relations and mechanisms of power. For Facebook, disconnection is an intense affective force. It is a problem of how to keep users engaged with the platform, but also one of keeping value, attention, and desires within the system. Karppi uses Facebook’s financial documents as a map to navigate how the platform sees its users. Facebook’s plans to connect the entire globe through satellites and drones illustrates the material webs woven to keep us connected. Karppi analyzes how Facebook’s interface limits the opportunity to opt-out—even continuing to engage users after their physical death. Showing how users have fought to take back their digital lives, Karppi chronicles responses like Web2.0 Suicide Machine, an art project dedicated to committing digital suicide.

For Karppi, understanding social media connectivity comes from unbinding the bonds that stop people from leaving these platforms. Disconnection brings us to the limit of user policies, algorithmic control, and platform politics. Ultimately, Karppi’s focus on the difficulty of disconnection, rather than the ease of connection, reveals how social media has come to dominate human relations.

University of Minnesota Press, October 2018
$22.00 paper ISBN 978-1-5179-0307-7
$88.00 cloth ISBN 978-1-5179-0306-0
192 pages 1 b&w photo, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

“Disconnect is a timely, theoretically rich assessment of Facebook as platform and assemblage. Rhetorics of connectivity dominate Silicon Valley, and Tero Karppi helps illuminate and describe the complex, flickering patterns of connection and disconnection that envelope the networked users of such platforms. This is a valuable, accessible guide to the politics and poetics of Facebook.”

— Amit Ray, Rochester Institute of Technology

“Disconnect could not have come at a more important time. Tero Karppi’s nuanced writing brings out the rich complexities of social media life and disconnection. This must-read book shows that walking away may not remove Facebook’s presence in our lives, but it reveals the limits of social media in our world and the business models that are built to keep us connected.”

— Jason Farman, author of Delayed Response: The Art of Waiting from the Ancient to the Instant World*

”Disconnect” är ett ambitiöst försök att förklara hur sociala medier har kunnat få ett så starkt grepp om sina användare att frånkoppling idag ses som en social avvikelse. Karppi lyckas väl med sin ambition, inte minst när det gäller att slå hål på myten om kreativa och engagerade ”prosumenter” utan att för den sakens skull reducera Facebooks användare till manipulerade offer.

— André Jansson, Professor of Media and Communication Studies, Karlstad University, Svenska Dagbladet, Jan 4, 2019

“The strength of this research is in its absolute attention to detail. The author masters the unruly and competing aspects of this incredibly complex, and swiftly evolving organisation, examining them through a well-chosen range of conceptual frameworks. […] A particular strength of the book is the way in which the discussion of affect, which can sometimes be nebulous and somewhat abstracted, is repeatedly pinned down into specific mechanisms, policies and strategies, with subtlety and far-reaching insight. Over all, the book is wonderful, and will serve as a valuable addition to the growing body of work on, and critique of, social media generally and Facebook specifically.”

— Andrew Prior, Leonardo, June 2019

“Disconnect pays homage to existing work on nonuse, but as that literature is somewhat scant, it has the potential to occupy an important place in future research on tensions between platforms and (non)participants. Both scholars and advanced students of media, platform, and software studies will find Disconnect an important read, as we often think of how things as designed for users, but not as designed against nonuse.”
— Nathanael Bassett, New Media & Society, July 3 2019
Book talks and Presentations 

January 28, 2019, 5:30-7:30PM
Toronto, ON, Centre for Social Innovation, 192 Spadina Ave.
Decimal Lab (UOIT) / Technocultural Questions

February 7, 2019, 16:00–17:30 GMT
Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, UK / critical inquiry with and about the digital

February 11, 2019, 11-12 GMT
Winchester School of Art, Lecture Theatre A, Southampton, UK / Archaeologies of Media and Technology Research group

March 29, 2019, 4-6PM
Toronto, ON, Ryerson University / The Catalyst at FCAD

April 19, 2019
TBA, The AI Now Institute, New York City


Reach & Facebook’s Four Steps for Business Success

Recently people have been talking about Facebook reach. Facebook has, at least allegedly, begun to experiment on monetizing the visibility of not only pages and groups but also the visibility of user’s posts and status updates. While using Facebook is ‘free’ and remains free, these changes imply that soon enough users are obliged for paying for visibility; if you want that your status update reaches your friends you can secure this with money. Now for pages the option to increase the reach by buying visibility has been available for a while. In addition there are also tools and statistics through which you can monitor your reach. However, for individual user the only way to monitor your reach has been by looking at the likes, recommendations and comments your post gets (filtered through EdgeRank of course). If you can buy reach, then the self-monitoring tools for Facebook are also bound to increase.

Now, the discussion of reach reminded me of a short piece that I planned for an article but that I for one reason or another rejected from the manuscript. This is a short excursion on how Facebook manifests its user engagement. It is a quick reading of Facebook’s Four Steps for Business Success site and the quotes below are from that site. I will post it here for the time being. It might find its way to somewhere someday.

The first step for business success in Facebook platform is to build a page for the business. “Your Page is the central place to grow your business, build your brand and develop relationships with your customers.” Creating a page begins from choosing a name and a category for the business. Then the profile is filled with visual and textual content: choose a profile picture and a cover photo, write a short passage describing the business. After the visual outlook for the page is selected one needs to invite users for the page. This is achieved by inviting Facebook friends and importing contacts from email addresses. After that one is ready to write a first post, which according for Facebook should be short, visual and optimized for example according to time and location of page users.

Connecting with people who are the right fit for the business is the second step for success. This is done by creating the first ad. First the promoted page is chosen, a new ad is then targeted for users that are not previously connected to the site. This ad can make the page more lucrative by for example offering discounts and coupons: ‘Like us today and receive a coupon for 50% off,’ ‘Like us to get access to exclusive sales and discounts!’ This ad can be targeted according to reach the right audience according “details such as their location, age, gender and interests so you know who you want to target them with your ad.” Moreover categories of ‘precise interests’ and ‘broad interests’ can be used to get a more specific audience. Broad interests refer to general interests and lifestyle of the user, precise interests refer to people who have expressed specific interest to a certain topic.

Now liking a page and advertising a page is not enough. The third step is to engage the audience to the page. “When you post content and have conversations on your Page, you’re building loyalty and creating opportunities to generate sales. Learn how to create content that will keep your audience interested.” This content can be promoted to users. It ensures that it will appear to their news feed and become noticed. Promoted posts reach the likers of the page and also potentially their friends. Indeed this influencing the friends of fans is the fourth step to business success. “When people interact with your Page, their friends can see it in their news feed as a story. Expand your audience by promoting stories about people engaging with your Page.” This can be done to something Facebook calls as Sponsored Stories. “Sponsored stories ensure that more people see when their friends have interacted with your business on Facebook. They can show in the news feed on desktop and mobile, and in the right hand column of Facebook.”

Now these four steps for business success will become especially interesting, if the monetization of status updates really will take place and one is to need instructions for personal success in Facebook. Self-promotion, that’s where the money is.

Photo: Money by Flickr user AMagill, used under a Creative Commons license.