The Road So Far

This blog was created a week after the first day of class and I won’t even attempt to recollect everything that we learned about. The reading for the week was Zandt’s Share This and Jarah led us in an activity in which we pretended that we were search engines. A few of my reflections on Zandt’s Share This that we were asked to write by Katie are after the jump.

Upon reading Zandt, I took note of several positive and negative things in the book and the social media experience in general. First and foremost, there is the assumption that everyone will be capable of building up a crowd given the social media tools. Social networks are deemed to be equal under Zandt’s analysis and scant attention is paid to “social deserts”. Certainly, it’s great if one has access to a social network of proud feminist allies, but there is always the case that one’s network is made up of people hostile to the cost. Likewise, there seems to be an issue surrounding the division of social capital. If Mary has abundant social capital and Sue doesn’t, Mary could very easily use her social capital to discredit Sue or overpower anything that Sue has to say.

Our first use of social media, via our class blog, did not provide me with any real feeling of change. The blog seemed like a glorified hand-out packet updated in real time. On the one hand, the advantage of this hand-out packet is that I could gain access to it anywhere in the world, provided that I have the proper Internet infrastructure and user privileges. On the other, I felt this experience was inferior to one in the classroom. Throughout most of the exercise, I felt like I was sitting at home and not engaging with anyone about this material while in the classroom I have the opportunity to engage in the material face to face. We have a forced community in the classroom that we do not have on the Internet. There is no reason for me to be online while there is one to be in the classroom. Perhaps the incentives can be changed to overpower social media participation and lessen classroom participation.

When investigating the relationship between Zandt’s Share This! and commercialization, commodification, and privatization, I was initially flummoxed. When I looked at Zandt’s website, I saw her book in the middle of the main page. It was obvious that she was trying to commercialize her book. This wasn’t surprising given that books have been a private commodity for at least 100 years. Upon further reflection, I thought of two things Zandt could be commercializing: 1) a set of social media strategies 2) her identity.

The relationship between the three components mentioned earlier and social media strategies could be the following. Initially, social media strategies were learned organically or through friends. Zandt put together a book on these strategies, thus setting herself up as an expert, and began to commercialize the strategies. Her website and list of employers show that she is reliable, authoritative, and on point with progressive causes, thus making her book more appealing to progressives than something by Glenn Beck. She commodifies the strategies in a book and begins to sell them. Whereas these strategies were previously available to the public by some extent, they are now out in a private form. The relationship between the three components and her identity are a bit more difficult to parse out. In some extent, it is nothing new. People have had to “sell themselves” for work whenever they went into interviews. The way Zandt does it is just with a social media twist. She advertises herself, her qualifications, her resume, and her capabilities on her website. It is as if she’s launching herself as a product on the Internet. She becomes a new employee commodity competing with other employee commodities. In a sense, this is a new twist on the already privatized world of the labor market.

List of feminist tools and ideas used to think about this:

–           Nancy Fraser’s Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy

–          “Selling out movement” instances where people have sold movement strategies or histories for profit.

–          Nina Power’s One Dimensional Woman

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