An examination of social media and how it has transformed interactive online communication.
Marwick (Communications and Media Studies/Fordham Univ.) explores the attributes and social ramifications of online identities and the factors that affect how it is developed and perceived by others. The author developed much of the book’s material from a nearly five-year period she spent attending technology conferences and conducting “ethnographic fieldwork” and follow-up interviews with online networking informants in the San Francisco Bay Area, a buzzing hive of young Web gurus carefully cultivating the tech boom by nurturing name-brand strongholds like Google, Facebook and Twitter (the latter of which she dissects with exacting precision). Prior to online networking being encapsulated under the umbrella term “social media,” writes Marwick, the Internet underwent an innovative and idealistic upgrade christened “Web 2.0.” This historical event takes up the first chapter of her six-part assessment of how the Web’s reboot spawned an era founded on the principles of activism, entrepreneurialism, self-promotion and deregulated capitalism. She also focuses on how users of Twitter and Facebook, among others, primarily utilize strategic modes of self-branding in order to improve their online status, maximize their presence and increase their chances of becoming a fame-craving “micro-celebrity.” Marwick’s reportage on “lifestreaming” (“the ongoing sharing of personal information to a networked audience, the creation of a digital portrait of one’s actions and thoughts”) includes a humorous account of a dinner with friends whose “iPhones rarely left their hands, even as they ate.” The author brilliantly equates tech-world ideals with the incremental undermining of women’s advancement in the field. A self-admitted technological enthusiast, Marwick is a lively, vivacious instructor possessing an infectious passion for social technology where “the line between personal and work was hard to find” yet was firmly represented by “American entrepreneurialism and innovation, freedom and participation, and revolution and change.”
Skillful spadework on the underpinnings of a thriving Internet community.