Special Topics in Information Studies: Critical Studies of Social Media


INF2307H

In 2018, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica had profiled 80 million Facebook users and arguably used these profiles to influence their political decision-making in the US presidential elections and the Brexit vote. While Facebook’s data practices and the potential for influencing targeted users became as a surprise for many, critical studies of social media have highlighted for almost a decade now that social media sites are not neutral playgrounds for its users. Rather, social media sites are designed for the purposes of influencing users, monetizing their connections, and providing value for the owners of the site. To elaborate the complexity of our social media relations, the course draws on different phenomenological and material approaches of media theory. In specific, the course brings together some of the core themes of contemporary social media studies focusing on recent books that introduce critical approaches. Critical in this context does not mean positioning social media as something negative but rather it is an approach that investigates social media through its continuities and breaks, challenges corporate definitions of social media bringing the world closer together, and provides tools to analyze the logics according to which social media sites function and individuals are positioned as user subjectivities.

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