A book on Facebook co-edited by CMCS Research Fellow Oliver Leistert and Theo Röhle (University of Paderborn) was published last month by [transcript] Verlag: Generation Facebook: Über das Leben im Social Net.
The German-language volume, which received favourable reviews in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) (p. 22), the Netzpolitik.org blog and other media, contains contributions from international authors who develop a comprehensive and critical perspective on the role and nature of Facebook, which spans the range from media studies to cultural studies and the humanities.
Theoretical contributions as well as focused commentaries from Geert Lovink, Saskia Sassen and others explore the most important facets of the Facebook phenomenon, the societal implications of this new form of social interaction, and the political and economical significance of Facebook's position as uncontested market leader.
The goal of the book is to ground the debate on Facebook academically. To preempt the risk of quickly outdated contributions, the authors assembled a collection of texts with a strong commitment to methodological and theoretical innovation and rigour – texts which they believe to have the potential to make a lasting contribution to their respective fields of research. As it engages in a close examination of technological and economic processes as well as productive use cases, the main focus of the book is on the power relations that emerge with this new kind of media.
The key topic areas covered in the book revolve around a few main themes:
Identity and interaction and political economy
- Social relations: What are the societal processes that render Facebook so successful as a social medium? How do notions of friendship, community and society change?
- Identity: What are the effects of mandatory real names and the old binary of gender to social relations within Facebook?
- Political strategies: What is Facebook’s role in political organizing and campaigns?
- Rankings: What are the consequences of “Like”-statistics, friend lists and algorithmically established news feeds? Are we witnessing the emergence of new media dynamics?
- Creation of value: What is the role of users in Facebook’s value chains – as consumers, as “audience commodity”, as workers? And how does Facebook’s value chain work anyway?
Data, privacy and ownership
- Surveillance: What kind of data is collected, and what is the role of data mining? What can the theory of governmentality teach us about these processes?
- Privacy: What concepts of privacy apply when data is deliberately given to third parties? How are the terms of services a vehicle for the data sell out?
- Data flows: How do users deal with their data? To what extent can they control it? Who owns the data?
- Closed Facebook: How does a closed Facebook (including the APIs) relate to the original idea of an open internet?
- Methods: How can Facebook be a topic of research? How does Facebook shape the way it is being researched? Which are the questions it answers and which not?