Published on February 27, 2014
THE EMOTIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: THE CASE OF THE FACEBOOK "LIKE" BUTTON KARIN WAHL -JORGENSEN (@KARI N WAHLJ ) CARDIFF UNIVERSITY UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER FEBRUARY 26, 2014
BACKGROUND • Work in progress • Chapter in Wahl-Jorgensen, K (forthcoming) Emotions, Media and Politics. Polity Press. • How emotion circulates through media and shapes public discourse
EMOTIONS, MEDIA AND POLITICS • Exploring disjuncture between liberal democratic theory and lived practices of citizenship • Work in media studies needs to take affective elements of communication into consideration. • Rise of emotional culture • „Therapy talk‟ • „Emotional intelligence‟ • The “affective turn” across humanities and social sciences recognising the mobilising role of emotion • The “emotional deficit in political communication” (Richards, 2004) • Social media and emotion
THE EMOTIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF LETTERS TO THE EDITOR • Formal contributions • Language of rationality; formal contributions (Wahl-Jorgensen, 2007) • Identification of contributors; prohibition on anonymity (Reader, 2005) • Accountability for statements • Limits on “volleyball matches” (WahlJorgensen, 2007) • Letters which do not conform to norms are designated “insane” (WahlJorgensen, 2004) • Resonating with normative ideals of liberal democratic press
THE EMOTIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA • Emotion management: Avoiding negative behaviour, e.g. cyberbullying and trolling • Online world as “bad neighbourhood” of public participation
THE EMOTIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA • “Labour of liking”/”Like economy”/”Like farming” • Emotional architecture of Facebook: Designed to ensure the expression of positive emotion. • Space for conflict, contestation, and argument are structurally limited. • Commodification of emotional labour.
THE EMOTIONAL ARCHITECTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA • Facebook: “[E]merged as the architectural equivalent of a glass house, with a publicly open structure which may be manipulated (relatively, at this point) from within to create more or less private spaces. Looseness of behavioral norms obliges users to construct their own, but the network provides tools with which individuals may construct and leave behavioral cues for each other. (Papacharissi 2009: 215, emphasis added) • BUT: Facebook seeks to steer the prevailing norms of emotional expression in the direction of bland positivity (Pariser 2011).
THE LIKE BUTTON AND POSITIVITY • Ayelet Noff (2011), CEO of social media PR company Blonde 2.0: • “Facebook is a social community and in order to survive there needs to be positivity in the air. Negative energy can only lead to negative content which in turn would harm such a network.”
THE LIKE BUTTON AND THE “FRIENDLY WORLD SYNDROME” The fact that “Facebook chose Like instead of, say Important is a small design decision with far-reaching consequences: The stories that get the most attention on Facebook are the stories that get the most Likes, and the stories that get the most Likes are, well, more likable.” (Pariser 2011: 149):
THE LIKE BUTTON “Like” is an easy and low-stress way to “Like” is an easy and low-stress way to express express interest, approval, or connection interest, approval, or connection with a post. From the with a post. From the perspective of perspective of this “liker,” I don't have to thinkof this anything profoundhave to I think of to press "like." “liker,” I don't or clever. just have anything And it doesn't require as much energy or emotional profound or clever. I just have to press commitment to "love." But if you wanna be a hater, FB "like." you to doesn't require like that. requiresAnd itcome out and say it. Ias much energy or emotional commitment to "love." But if you wanna be a hater, FB requires you to come out and say it. I like that.
THE "LIKE" BUTTON I often find myself using this button for good news or funny stories from people I don't know well. It seems presumptuous and can overstep the bounds of an acquaintanceship to comment at times, so the like button can be a bit like the background applause, rather than the personal touch of flowers and a letter of appreciation :-) What hits my heart, makes me laugh and what I really empathise with. Something that's funny, an argument I agree with on a moral or political level, the sharing of meaningful family moments
• Three million people have signed petition to add Dislike button • “We need a Dislike button! But sadly this won't happen as the big corporations like Wal-Mart and Best Buy don't want us to be able to Dislike their products. It has nothing to do with what we want, sadly it is all about what the money wants.” • “I used to think that facebook should have a dislike button. But then, I realized that what makes facebook so addictive and entertaining is that it encourages people to compliment each other. What would happen if there was a dislike button? Instead of people using it to make each other feel good, a lot of people would use it to be jerks. Can you imagine how unhappy you'd be if people clicked dislike on your statuses? Most people want to have a dislike button to click when something bad happens to someone. But, if there really was a dislike button, a lot of people would use it in hurtful ways and facebook would be a lot less fun (and more drama filled). By refusing us a dislike button, facebook is only trying to make us happy.”
CONCLUSION • Emotional architecture of virtual world: Shaped by confluence of commercial and practical considerations • Affect control structure/emotion management: Enforcing positivity to avoid negative affective behaviour • Varied purposes of the emotional labour of liking are not all benign • Social media, though generating new forms of participation, cannot straightforwardly be viewed as a utopian and untainted site for political and social engagement
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