1st Edition

Critical Theory and Social Media Between Emancipation and Commodification

By Thomas Allmer Copyright 2015
    234 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    234 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are enormously popular: they are continuously ranked among the most frequently accessed websites worldwide. However there are as yet few studies which combine critical theoretical and empirical research in the context of digital and social media. The aim of this book is to study the constraints and emancipatory potentials of new media and to assess to what extent digital and social media can contribute to strengthen the idea of the communication and network commons, and a commons-based information society.
    Based on a critical theory and political economy approach, this book explores:

    • the foundational concepts of a critical theory of media, technology, and society
    • users’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices towards the antagonistic character and the potentials and risks of social media
    • whether technological and/or social changes are required in order to bring about real social media and human liberation.

    Critical Theory and Social Media examines both academic discourse on, and users’ responses to, new media, making it a valuable tool for international scholars and students of sociology, media and communication studies, social theory, new media, and information society studies. Its clear and interesting insights into corporate practices of the global new media sector will mean that it appeals to critical social media users around the world.

    Introduction.  Part I: Theoretical Foundations  1. Critical Theory and Dialectics  2. Critical Internet and Social Media Studies  3. Critical (Internet) Privacy Studies: Ideology Critique  4. Critical (Internet) Surveillance Studies: Commodity Critique  Part II: Case Study  5. Traditional and Critical Research of Privacy and Surveillance on Social Media  6. Empirical Results: (Dis)Advantages of Social Media  Part III: Techno-Social Revolution  7. Critical Theory, Dialectics, and the (Dis)Advantages of Social Media  8. Conclusion


    Thomas Allmer is Lecturer in Social Justice at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. His research focuses on critical theory and political economy of media and communication. He is the author of Towards a Critical Theory of Surveillance in Informational Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2012).

    "Thomas Allmer’s outstanding book is characteristic for the high relevance of critical theories and critical political economy of the Internet today. He elaborates in an impressive and astute manner an ideology and commodity critique of Internet privacy and surveillance as well as social media’s political economy by making use of and actualising Marx and Marxist theory for the dialectical critique of twenty-first century digital capitalism. This book is an essential must-read for anyone who cares about the Internet and wants to know why we should (dis)like Facebook."

    —Professor Christian Fuchs, author of Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media, Digital Labour and Karl Marx, Social Media: A Critical Introduction, Internet and Society

    "In this book, Thomas Allmer has pulled off the difficult trick of combining a comprehensive re-reading of the relevance of the critical tradition to digital times with original research on internet users, to produce a provocative analysis of the contradictory potentials of new media and the forces shaping their deployment. By reconnecting discussion of privacy, connectivity and surveillance with fundamental underlying questions of emancipation and control it moves debate beyond the superficiality of much contemporary commentary to confront the complex entanglements of emerging media with prevailing patterns of inequality and power and the prospects for challenge and change. Anyone concerned with our possible futures needs to read it."

    —Graham Murdock, Professor of Culture and Economy, Loughborough University

    "In past years, a number of writers... have published important books about the dynamics of the social media. Yet, Thomas Allmer has managed to find a unique standpoint that provides his book with much-deserved place in this somewhat cluttered research space. Based on a combination of in-depth theoretical inquiry and sound quantitative research, Critical Theory and Social Media addresses issues pertaining to theory and practice in equal depth – thus walking the walk of critical social praxis... Instead of offering one more sweeping generalization, Thomas Allmer goes the hard way and produces relevant, socially embedded research which is a necessary precondition for critical emancipation... I warmly recommend Critical Theory and Social Media for two main reasons. First, the book provides important insights into the logic of the contemporary social media. Second, it shows a good example of doing relevant social science research in and for the age of the network."

    Petar Jandrić, University of Applied Sciences, Zagreb, Croatia, Concepts 

    "The quantitative data analysis and research results support Allmer's argument that corporate social media, the space of capital accumulation, serves as ideological platforms to facilitate commodification. He also points out that the leading public discourse that social media are new, open, and bring about more democracy is a pseudoproposition
    and manipulated by social media owners to strengthen their ideological agenda. The new social media users, in contrast, are a spatially and socially fragmented class and are not able to challenge the asymmetrical and
    hierarchical client-server network. Allmer proposes the peer-to-peer computer network, which has information
    and communication commons, to be the substitute and the gateway to real social media and human liberation.Critical 1heory and Social Media is a valuable model for scholars in media and communication studies, digital society studies, and beyond to reconsider the problem of emancipation and control."

    - Lin Dong, Georgia State University, Technical Communication