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Status Update

Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Status Update
    Book Description:

    Social media technologies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook promised a new participatory online culture. Yet, technology insider Alice Marwick contends in this insightful book, "Web 2.0" only encouraged a preoccupation with status and attention. Her original research-which includes conversations with entrepreneurs, Internet celebrities, and Silicon Valley journalists-explores the culture and ideology of San Francisco's tech community in the period between the dot com boom and the App store, when the city was the world's center of social media development.

    Marwick argues that early revolutionary goals have failed to materialize: while many continue to view social media as democratic, these technologies instead turn users into marketers and self-promoters, and leave technology companies poised to violate privacy and to prioritize profits over participation. Marwick analyzes status-building techniques-such as self-branding, micro-celebrity, and life-streaming-to show that Web 2.0 did not provide a cultural revolution, but only furthered inequality and reinforced traditional social stratification, demarcated by race, class, and gender.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19915-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-20)

    A few months after I arrived in San Francisco, a friend invited me to the Facebook company Christmas party. The theme was the 1940s, so I put on a flowered dress, pinned my hair in victory rolls, and painted on red lipstick. The first stop was a pre-party in a luxury apartment complex in San Francisco’s South of Market district, where a group of twenty-somethings, the men in suits and fedoras and the women in BCBG cocktail dresses and gladiator heels, were mixing drinks and playing beer pong. The apartment was sparsely furnished, containing only a futon, a ping-pong table,...

    (pp. 21-72)

    In 2006, the cover ofTimemagazine’s annual “Person of the Year” issue depicted a computer with a shiny mirrored Mylar screen, intended to reflect the face of the viewer. The person of the year: You. The author of the piece, Lev Grossman, wrote:

    2006 … [is] a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change...

  5. 2 LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS: Status in the Tech Scene
    (pp. 73-111)

    I wait, somewhat impatiently, in a long line outside a club in the South of Mission. It is September 2008, and I am in San Francisco to attend TechCrunch’s annual conference, a massive event that brings people from all over the country to hear about the latest startups and social technologies. This particular party is sponsored by Seesmic, a video-sharing startup. A velvet rope, with muscled bouncers on both sides, bars the door. Behind that rope, a passel of attractive twenty-something women—in cocktail dresses, sparkly jewelry, and lots of makeup—are checking names off a guest list. As I...

    (pp. 112-162)

    At South by Southwest (SXSW), virtually every high-status member of the technology community convenes on Austin for a long weekend. The conference sessions are packed, but busier by far are massive parties sponsored by companies like Foursquare and Twitter. In 2009, the biggest SXSW party was the “Bigg Digg Shindigg” thrown by the social news site Digg. Held at Stubbs, a barbecue restaurant and music venue, indie bands Barcelona and Republic Tigers played as more than two thousand attendees streamed in and out and crowded around the enormous stage. Queuing up for a drink, I met a group of college...

  7. 4 SELF-BRANDING: The (Safe for Work) Self
    (pp. 163-204)

    Laura Fitton was a working mom with a floundering home business when she discovered Twitter. As one of the service’s earliest adopters, she rocketed to fame in 2007, garnering more than fifty thousand followers at a time when having a thousand was impressive. Known as @pistachio, Fitton used the service to follow Web 2.0 celebrities she had only read about on blogs. “It was such a fast, rapid, effective way to start meeting people,” she told me. “I felt like the people I was interacting with on Twitter were co-workers.” Fitton quickly found out that “all the American heavyweights” she...

  8. 5 LIFESTREAMING: We Live in Public
    (pp. 205-244)

    The 2009 documentaryWe Live in Publictold the story of Josh Harris, a late-1990s dot-com millionaire who funneled his considerable fortune into what he considered the future: people broadcasting their lives via internet-enabled closed-circuit television. Harris founded an internet television network with channels like “88 Hip Hop” and “Cherrybomb,” but the technology was limited and only allowed for choppy, frame-by-frame video. When that venture failed, he built an underground bunker in Manhattan, filled it with television screens and cameras, and invited a collection of scenesters and technologists to move in. The bunker also included a shooting range, random cross-examination...

  9. 6 DESIGNED IN CALIFORNIA: Entrepreneurship and the Myths of Web 2.0
    (pp. 245-272)

    I began this book by arguing that social software may inadvertently do more to promote inequality than to counter it. While Web 2.0’s complex history bestows social media with radical, transformative power, it has ended up prioritizing entrepreneurialism, commodification, and independence. This combination has played out in complex and contradictory ways; for example, the tech scene values self-made status over ascribed status, but looks down on individuals who actively court attention rather than “earning it” for their accomplishments. Many of the assumptions about “correct” behavior that stem from these values are shaped and reinforced by technical features of social media,...

    (pp. 273-282)

    In September 2011, I flew to Scottsdale, Arizona, for a conference. After checking in at a luxury desert resort, I was shuttled to another luxury resort to eat lamb gyros and stuffed grape leaves in a Moroccan-style courtyard glittering with lights. Speakers like Newark mayor Cory Booker, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo mingled with conference attendees and the winners of the Zeitgeist Young Minds contest, ten people between eighteen and twenty-four years old who were “changing the world.” Over the next two days, we wined and dined, heard Sandra Day O’Connor and Robert Reich discuss the economy, saw...

  11. Appendix: CAST OF CHARACTERS
    (pp. 283-286)
    (pp. 287-292)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 293-316)
    (pp. 317-346)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 347-360)