The Web 2.0 technologies
A long time ago, our early human ancestors gathered around campfires, creating communal hearths of warmth and light and sense of public interaction. There they might tell stories, converse about the day’s events, perhaps engage in shamanistic rituals involving plants, music and dance, or simply gaze silently at the flames in collective meditation. Today, the fireplace in family’s living room shares its centralizing power with the television, around which we gather with our laptops and cell phones by our sides. Our time spent together is increasingly mediated by new technologies, enabling new forms of storytelling, altering our processes of individual and collective identity formation, and extending the possibilities for creating and maintaining social relationships. What follows is an ethnographic exploration of online social networking, a controversial new medium of communication that has become a fixture in the everyday lives of middle-class, American youth. Studies of our primate cousins have found that their striking affinity for grooming one another serves the primary function of creating and maintaining social bonds. Predominantly social animals, our success as a species can be attributed in part to our capacity to form large groups, wherein different members perform a variety of roles and activities necessary for the well-being of their kin. It has been theorized that language evolved as a means of extending our social networks, allowing us to stay informed about friends and family through gossip (Dunbar 1996). Through language, humans create mutually understood symbols with which we coordinate social activities and pass on the stories, norms and values that order social life. Over the course of the past few centuries, the traditional roles of storyteller, gatekeeper, and matchmaker have been transformed through the accelerating force of mass reproduction, allowing for the increasingly expansive circulation of...
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