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Celebrity, Publicity, & Branding in the Social Media Age
By Alice Marwick | Review by Amber Buck



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Chapter 2: Origins of social media

One of the strengths of Alice E. Marwick's (2013) book is the "cultural history of Web 2.0" she presented in the first chapter, making it required reading for anyone interested in historicizing social media (p. 21). Marwick traced the multiple threads of computer and Internet culture during the past 30 years that led to the category of technologies many call "Web 2.0," a term popularized by Tim O'Reilly and Dale Dougherty at the 2004 O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 Conference. Combining cyber-utopian hacker and open-source culture, zines and independent media, and cultural festivals like Burning Man, Marwick traced counterculture through the Internet Age to the present. She connected this counterculture to the "California Ideology," which she defined as "a set of widely held beliefs that increasing the adoption of computer technologies brings positive social consequences" (p. 23). Technologies, in this view, are seen as best governed by the free market. Marwick argued that this cyber-libertarianism has created a paradox of dot-com companies that promote an entrepreneurial spirit with a worship of non-commodification. This culture values self-actualization through work in relatively unstable labor environments, emphasizing personal growth, optimism, and idealism in relatively insecure positions (p. 61). The danger of this system of meritocracy is that it depoliticizes many of Web 2.0's origins, overvalues technological solutions, and erases much of the labor required by these technologies.

Computers and writing scholars have always seen digital technologies within larger economic systems (Selfe & Selfe, 1994), but Marwick's history in this chapter provided a wider view by tying together hacker culture with venture capitalism. The result gives digital writing researchers and rhetoricians a wider scope and historical foundation for many of the web services we use, research, and critique, while tying them to labor issues within the tech industry.