From Iceland — Ungoo


Published July 23, 2014

Part VIII: Facebook Quarterly

Haukur Már Helgason
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Part VIII: Facebook Quarterly

[Continued from Ungoo: Part VII]

Which brings us back to Facebook. You may or may not know that a government agency called Promote Iceland has based whole marketing campaigns on encouraging the country’s inhabitants to employ social media to lure visitors. If those plans received any criticism at all, most of that probably appeared as Facebook posts, which were then drowned in more life-affirming messages. Nonetheless, debates take place on Facebook. If an interesting article appears elsewhere, whether on Starafugl or in Fréttablaðið, Facebook is still where most of the following debate will take place.

Facebook is a radically new space. With its dissolution of public and private, in a continuous multiplex of opinions wherein you, whoever you are, are always at the centre, it is so radically new that any analogy seems doomed to fail. To some extent, as a gathering place, it replaces conversations over coffee, whether at home, in workplaces or in cafés. As an equal platform, in some sense, for everyone, it entails an unheard of openness: if you have something to say, you, with the help of that like-button, will find your audience. In your kitchen. It may also be among the strongest current agent of globalization, in that word’s most liberating sense. Not that many decades ago, communicating with people from other countries was the restricted privilege of academics and sailors. Facebook, however, is so irrefutably simply there now, that speaking of it in terms of negative and positive qualities seems futile, besides the point. You don’t refute Facebook. Like anything else, one day it will come to an end, but not because it will have been debated away. It will not perish by the hand of reasoning. Evidently, at least for now, we like it.

For various reasons, however, this sort of media is a lousy substitute for prior, let’s just call them asocial, media. Not all discourses need a periodical or any such defined frame of publication. But some do. There are multiple reasons to love our tumultuous new world, not the least of which is that we still don’t know what to expect from it. Maybe the time of what we already call ‘old media’, for example literary and cultural supplements, is over, by and large. If that is the case, then let us at least acknowledge what is or would thereby be lost. Note the casualties, and find an appropriate inscription for the graves, even at the risk of seeming old-fashioned. To enumerate the obvious: Debates on Facebook mainly focus on things that have already been published elsewhere. 1. In other words they are not wholly autonomous, but rely on the existence and content of other media. 2. Commenting on Facebook does not involve days or weeks of consideration before having your say, nor the quality control of editing. 3 Most people would have the good sense, on Facebook, not to make extensive use of a specialized vocabulary, that might alienate or threaten their friends and relatives in all sorts of different fields. 4. Although Facebook-debates are not exactly private, they are not quite public either; this means, among other things, that they don’t leave traces: there’s no public archive to look them up in years later. In terms of cultural memory, whatever happens there is continuously forgotten.

[To be continued …]
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