Socialising media: 5 questions for the enactment of hybridity
There is a tension in every online community space between technological constraints, editorial or moderational bias, commercial sensitivity, and community norms, expectations and tolerance.
In providing their own space for others to communicate, websites are compelled to struggle with issues of legal liability, ethics and the desire to be popular enough to attract hits, sales, leads, etc. Notions of power, representation and hierarcy have not died and we cannot (yet?) rely on (Benkler’s vision of) a new information economy that is open, equal and where everything is crowd-sourced.
As I am personally forced (kicking and screaming) to curate and represent, this particular passage, quoted by Gajjala (2002) on the enactment of hybridity in our texts resonates:
“What we must focus on is the quality of relations with the people we seek to represent in our texts: are they viewed as mere fodder for professionally self-serving statements about a generalized Other, or are they accepted as subjects with voices, views, and dilemmas—people to whom we are bonded through ties of reciprocity and who may even be critical of our professional enterprise? (Narayan 1997: 23)”
Although written in relation to virtual ethnography this rings very true for ‘socialising media’. So I suggest, if one must ‘represent’ or ‘manage’ a community, or ‘drive’ a social media campaign, one must be brave enough to ask oneself and others:
- How am I framing opportunities to participate and closing down others?
- For whom do I speak and how am I representing them?
- Which words do I choose and what prominence are they given?
- How do silences and nuances become lost in my curation?
- And how, ultimately succesful am I, at crowding-in voices that others (perhaps even me) would rather crowd-out?
And for all those arguments about protecting brand message, editorial lines etc. etc. it is always worth pointing out that if you don’t host the debate or conversation your community wants in the way they want it, you will not close it off. It will simply happen elsewhere.