Technophilia and Its Discontents

My friend Ryn brought to my attention a very interesting and worthwhile article about the tendencies for social divisions to be duplicated online, concentrating specifically on the class divisions between MySpace and Facebook.
praha june 2007  - 22

I think I have some doubts about some of the author's conclusions, but without seeing her actual numbers and methods, having only the anecdotal examples she gave, I can't argue and will give her the benefit of the doubt that her data supports her points. Certainly, I don't doubt and fully believe the most general points, that
1) different social networking communities are populated by different demographics and are self-segregated, somewhat.
2) technology will not automatically solve the separations and prejudices that exist in the "real" world.

The really interesting thing, to me, is that this has been happening for awhile - these kind of debates and debunkings of popular hype about "new media" were going on starting 14 or 15 years ago when the Web first started taking off, with a flood of rhetoric about the "digital 'revolution'" and the liberatory potential of technology. People were questioning this along various lines, including class and race based analyses. I'd recommend a great anthology called
"Resisting the Virtual Life" and a little later there was a great book
called "Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents".

A professor of mine at CalArts told me back in 1996 how excited everyone (well, artists and activists, at least) was in the early 70s about the radical and democratic potential of video, but things didn't really pan out how they hoped, so she was a little skeptical about the same sort of talk regarding the web. Basically people have always been scared of, hopeful for, hyping, and debunking new technologies, probably since the wheel and fire, certainly on into film, TV, radio, home computers, etc. I'm glad that some are bringin' the noise on this round, but it's helpful to remember that it's a continuous loop.... and a continuous fight, to make sure that the pernicious effects of any new technology are minimized and the beneficial ones are amplified and widespread...