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This post originally appeared on Cyborgology – read and comment on the post here.

When I first began as a graduate student encountering social media research and blogging my own thoughts, it struck me that most of the conceptual disagreements I had with various arguments stemmed from something more fundamental: the tendency to discuss “the digital” or “the internet” as a new, “virtual”, reality separate from the “physical”, “material”, “real” world. I needed a term to challenge these dualistic suppositions that (I argue) do not align with empirical realities and lived experience. Since coining “digital dualism” on this blog more than a year ago, the phrase has taken on a life of its own. I’m happy that many seem to agree, and am even more excited to continue making the case to those who do not.

The strongest counter-argument has been that a full theory of dualistic versus synthetic models, and which is more correct, has yet to emerge. The success of the critique has so far outpaced its theoretical development, which exists in blog posts and short papers. Point taken. Blogtime runs fast, and rigorous theoretical academic papers happen slow; especially when one is working on a dissertation not about digital dualism. That said, papers are in progress, including ones with exciting co-authors, so the reason I am writing today is to give a first-pass on a framework that, I think, gets at much of the debate about digital dualism. It adds a little detail to “digital dualism versus augmented reality” by proposing “strong” and “mild” versions of each. Read More »

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This post originally appeared on Cyborgology – read and comment on the post here.

–Listen to the show here–

The Diane Rehm Show took to the air, ending 45 minutes ago, to debate how Facebook is making us lonely and disconnected and ruining just about everything. This is my quick first-reaction. On one side was Sherry Turkle, that avatar of “digital dualism” (more on this below) who recently wrote “The Flight From Conversation” in the New York Times and Stephen Marche who wrote “Is Facebook making us Lonely?” in The Atlantic. On the other side was Zeynep Tufekci, a researcher who communicates as well as these journalists*, responding to Turkle (also in the Atlantic). While Turkle and Marche’s headlines are intentionally catchy and dramatic, they are also sensationalist and misleading. The reality is not as captivating and Tufekci’s headline in response is far more accurate: “Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships.”

This is one of the many lessons provided by this hour of NPR: catchy arguments tend to trump data, even on nerdtacular public radio. Tufekci, outnumbered, did well given the dearth of air time provided relative to the more sensationalist ideas on the show. Further, the show (@drshow) seemed completely unaware of the fast-moving and engaging Twitter backchannel discussing the topics in much more nuance and detail than much of what was said on-air. [You’ve already enjoyed the irony of this as opposed to Turkle’s argument, right? Obviously.]

The next lesson Read More »

This post originally appeared on Cyborgology – read and comment on the post here.

 This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). See the conference website for information as well as event registration.

Experiencing global events through social media has become increasingly common. For those in the West, the uprisings over the past few years in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere were especially striking because social media filled an information void created by the lack of traditional journalists to cover the dramatic events. By simply following a hashtag on Twitter, we tuned into those on the scene, shouting messages of revolution, hope, despair, carnage, persistence, misinformation, debate, sadness, terror, shock, togetherness; text and photos bring us seemingly closer to the events themselves.

But of course the Twitter medium is not neutral. It has shaped what we see and what we do not. Where is the truth in all of this? The intersection of knowledge, power, struggle and the radically new and transformative power of social media begs for intense theorizing. How we conceptualize, understand, define and talk about this new reality lays the path forward to better utilizing social media for journalistic and political purposes.

This is why the keynote for Theorizing the Web 2012 conference (College Park, MD, April 14th) features Andy Carvin (NPR News) and Zeynep Tufekci (UNC) in conversation. Carvin (@acarvin) has become well known for his innovative use of Twitter as a journalistic tool. Tufekci (@techsoc) has emerged as one of the strongest academic voices on social movements and social media and brings a theoretical lens to help us understand this new reality. Together, insights will be made that have impact beyond just journalism but to all researchers of technology as well as those outside of academic circles.

Who is Andy Carvin; and What Do We Call Him?

Without a deep background in professional journalism, Carvin’s actual title at NPR is “Senior Strategist.” However, Read More »


This Toyota commercial is narrated by a young woman who gets her parents on Facebook because they supposedly are not social enough. While she scoffs at how relatively few “friends” her parents have, the parents are shown to be out living by mountain-biking some decidedly offline trails. The daughter remains confidently transfixed and anchored to the digital world of her laptop screen.

I spend lots of time on this blog pointing out what I call “digital dualism,” the fallacy of viewing the physical and digital as seperate worlds (think The Matrix). Instead, the position myself and others on this blog favor is what we call “augmented reality,” the realization that our world is one where atoms and bits come together. Read more about this idea if you want.

Enter Toyota. They are playing off the pesky social media misnomer that people are using Facebook instead of doing things offline. Research consistently disproves this zero-sum/one-or-the-other fallacy by demonstrating Read More »