Social media reflects tech industry values
In providing a critical look at Web 2.0 technologies, Alice E. Marwick's (2013) critiques and observations fall into two broad categories: 1) the construction and expression of individual identities and 2) the economics and ideologies of Web 2.0. In connecting the history of social media to an ethnography of the technology industry within Silicon Valley and interrogating the concept of status within the community, Marwick provided an excellent critique of the community in connecting the concepts of meritocracy, transparency, and entrepreneurship, demonstrating where each of these myths fall short. She argued well that social media often works as a system of social surveillance, creating a situation where individuals present themselves primarily as commodities: easy to classify and ultimately uncontroversial. The nature of her book in straddling academic and general audiences, though, may leave a writing studies audience missing both a deeper theoretical engagement with the concepts she discussed and a deeper analysis of many of the situations she described. While an important critique, her research as a whole remained primarily descriptive.
For writing researchers studying social media, Marwick's text provides both an invaluable history of social media and the rise of Web 2.0, but also a reminder that these technologies came from somewhere. When we critique how Facebook profiles ask users to construct their online selves and as we analyze the literacy practices of our students, Marwick reminds us that these sites are constructed this way for a reason; they come from a particular culture and they perpetuate the values of that culture. Her text provides a call to all of us working on social media to examine the ways writers in other locations and from other cultures work with, and sometimes against, these values as they use social media sites. Overall, Marwick's work is an excellent contribution to research on social media.