Facebook Society

Losing Ourselves in Sharing Ourselves

Roberto Simanowski. Translated by Susan H. Gillespie.

Columbia University Press

Facebook Society

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Pub Date: July 2018

ISBN: 9780231182720

296 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£27.00

Pub Date: July 2018

ISBN: 9780231544344

296 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£27.00

Facebook Society

Losing Ourselves in Sharing Ourselves

Roberto Simanowski. Translated by Susan H. Gillespie.

Columbia University Press

Facebook claims that it is building a “global community.” Whether this sounds utopian, dystopian, or simply self-promotional, there is no denying that social-media platforms have altered social interaction, political life, and outlooks on the world, even for people who do not regularly use them. In this book, Roberto Simanowski takes Facebook as a starting point to investigate our social-media society—and its insidious consequences for our concept of the self.

Simanowski contends that while they are often denounced as outlets for narcissism and self-branding, social networks and the practices they cultivate in fact remake the self in their image. Sharing is the outsourcing of one’s experiences, encouraging unreflective self-narration rather than conscious self-determination. Instead of experiencing the present, we are stuck ceaselessly documenting and archiving it. We let our lives become episodic autobiographies whose real author is the algorithm lurking behind the interface. As we go about accumulating more material for the platform to arrange for us, our sense of self becomes diminished—and Facebook shapes a subject who no longer minds. Social-media companies’ relentless pursuit of personal data for advertising purposes presents users with increasingly targeted, customized information, attenuating cultural memory and fracturing collective identity. Presenting a creative, philosophically informed perspective that speaks candidly to a shared reality, Facebook Society asks us to come to terms with the networked world for our own sake and for all those with whom we share it.
Facebook Society arrives at the moment when the idea that 'Facebook is us' is front page news. Just in time, Roberto Simanowski gives us a theory as to how it is that Facebook produces the very subjects who cannot feel shortchanged by what it offers. But he delivers more. Here is the crucial test of the philosophy of history and Frankfurt School critical theory brought to bear on the phenomenon defining the sociality of our time. Jane M. Gaines, author of Pink-Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries?
Facebook Society is a wonderfully rich and deeply thought extended essay on a symptomatic social medium of our day. With his focus on autobiography, friendship, memory, and narrative Simanowski outlines ways in which digital media have the power to change human perception and social relations. A broad historical, literary, and critical perspective on social media such as Simanowski’s is very much needed both in the humanities and in the social sciences. Andreas Huyssen, author of Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia
Who says Facebook can only lead to a flattening of intellectual life and political discourse? In a series of intriguing readings, Simanowski offers a compelling assessment of Zuckerberg’s empire without capitulating before its celebration of ceaseless connectivity and frenzied interaction. Whether it draws on Schopenhauer, Kracauer, or Nancy, Facebook Society brilliantly exemplifies why thought and theory remain essential to gauge the impact of social media on our imagination, our sense of self and community, and our ability to engage the past as a medium to shape different futures. Lutz Koepnick, author of On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary
From Pascal to Butler, Goethe to Baudrillard, Facebook Society offers a rich philosophical engagement with one of the most important platforms of our time. Simanowski's skillful text demonstrates how the mundane nature of Facebook includes a long media ecology of issues which bind us to others as communities and through friendship while defining what we are as subjects. This book offers coordinates to nothing less than the transformation of this political field. Jussi Parikka, author of Digital Contagions and A Geology of Media
Preface
1. Stranger Friends
2. Automatic Autobiography
3. Digital Nation
Afterword
Epilogue to the English Edition
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Roberto Simanowski is a German scholar of digital media and culture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. His books include Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies (Columbia, 2016) and Digital Humanities and Digital Media: Conversations on Politics, Culture, Aesthetics, and Literacy (2016).

Susan H. Gillespie is a noted translator from German and vice president for special global initiatives at Bard College. Her translations include numerous essays by Theodor W. Adorno, selected poems of Paul Celan, and other works of fiction, philosophy, and musicology.