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Politisk disruption – Sociale medier og forskydninger i tidsdimensionen

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Dette blogindlæg giver en kort analyse af hvordan de sociale medier ved at give en ny tid har åbnet for den disruption af de politiske processer som især Trump stå som et eksempel på.

Teori

Den indflydelsesrige tyske sociolog Niklas Luhmann pegede på mening som hovedbegreb i sociologien. Luhmann arbejde på med sin teori, at reducere kompleksitet, hvilket analytisk set, har givet os en lang række anvisninger til hvordan komplekse problemer mere klart kan iagttages, ved at indføre distinktioner. Når det gælder meningsbegrebet, skelnede Luhmann således mellem en sagsdimension, en socialdimension og en tidsdimension. I sagsdimensionen kan vi ved at skelne mellem dette og hint afgøre hvilken sag en kommunikation omhandler. I socialdimensionen kan vi afgøre hvordan dem sagen vedrører forholder sig ved at skelne mellem enighed og uenighed. I tidsdimensionen kan vi, ved at skelne mellem fortid og fremtid, iagttage hvordan nutid bliver omformet til en fortid, der lægger forventninger (struktur) ud for fremtiden.

Politiske processer handler om noget, og afgør hvad der kan opnås tilstrækkelig enighed om, og de tager tid. Jo mere komplekse politiske processer er, jo længere tid tager de.

Politik og medier

Den parlamentarisme vi kender, opstod i kølvandet på trykkepressen. Den krævede folkelig medbestemmelse og overtog efterhånden magten fra de gamle eneherskere. I et samfundssystem der baserer sig på trykkepressen skrift og tale er der relativt god tid til at håndtere uenigheder og etablere kompromis og brede parlamentariske flertal. I de elektroniske mediers barndom med radioen og mikrofonanlæg blev den vesterlandske bogorienterede kultur, ifølge McLuhan, ramt af en dybdeengagering, dens befolkning ikke havde erfaring til at modstå. Denne situation blev skæbnesvanger da Hitler gjaldede ud i hver en krog. Efter nogen tid med de elektroniske medier (og en verdenskrig) er vi dog ikke længere helt så sårbare overfor propaganda gennem dem. Et medie som tv har direkte betydet større transparens og dermed fremtvunget større kongruens mellem hvad en politiker siger og senere gør, hvortil tv også har betydet en større inklusion af sociale grupper, der gennem tv har let adgang til information. De nye digitale medier åbner som de elektroniske analoge for transmission. Transmissionen er øjeblikkelig og går udenom pressens kritiske redaktionsfilter. Hertil åbner de nye digitale medier for interaktion, hvorved der kan meldes tilbage til politikeren og ikke mindst debatteres videre og rejses folkestemninger – alt sammen derhjemme fra soveværelset.

 

Parlamentarisme og den nye medietid

Magten taler direkte til os, og som det var tilfældet med de tidlige elektroniske medier, er vi uforberedte og mangler erfaringer hvilket gør os sårbare. Vi klikker ikke bare på Fake News, eller det der ligner, når blot den holdning der ligger bag synes rigtig. Nej, vi løber med på stemninger, hvilket igen spiller tilbage på politikerne, der kommer under tidspres og får svært ved at koordinere og håndtere de mere komplekse politiske processer. Fællesskab og parlamentarisk samarbejde står i kontrast til enegang og uforsonlige udmeldinger. Kompleksiteten i de politiske forhandlinger tager tid at håndtere og lider overlast under accelerationen drevet frem af hurtige offentlige meldinger og reaktioner. Resultatet bliver forsimplinger, der ikke matcher den faktiske samfundsmæssige kompleksitet og fører til en polarisering mellem dem og os i socialdimensionen – en opsplitning i den offentlige mening (offentlig mening er i politikken er funktionel ækvivalent til sandhed).

Det materielle grundlag

Der er samtidig materiel grobund for opsplitningen qua samme bortsvinden af middelklassen, der gav grobund for Hitler og nazisterne (de 8 rigeste ejer lige så meget som hele den fattigste halvdel af verdensbefolkningen tilsammen). I Danmark, verdens mest lige samfund, stiger uligheden også. Hertil kommer kommunalreformernes demokratiske afkobling af borgerne, hvortil kommer, at reformernes centralisering betyder, at der i randområderne ikke længere findes skoler, politistationer, busser eller boliglån – alt imens globaliseringen raser i en endnu ikke koordineret og reguleret verdensorden, hvorfor arbejdspladser flytter hen hvor lønningerne er lavest og miljøhensyn og arbejdsmiljø er en by i Rusland. Hvis da ikke der netop er reguleret således, at immigranter med fuld legitimitet agerer lønpressere. Folk bliver forbandet på disse forhold og der dannes overtryk.

Genkobling via sociale medier

Nu ser vi via sociale medier en genkobling af marginaliserede borgere hånd i hånd med diskriminering og eksklusion af den etablerede presse. Tænk eksempelvis på Trump og Marin Le Pen, der notorisk kun vil tale med venligsindede medier. Det er ikke så tydelig udtalt i Danmark endnu, men vi nærmer os når statsministeren henvender sig direkte til befolkningen via Twitter og Facebook. Med Nye Borgerlige og medier som den Korte Avis og NewSpeek Networks er der ikke langt til en lignende situation i Danmark. Tryk vil, hvis ikke de kan udlignes, simpelthen bare ud og eksplosioner kan ikke udelukkes. Diskussionen går på Nationen.

Disruption

Mekanismen som sociale medier åbner er i gang, da politikere af alle observanser lystigt poster konfliktende budskaber, etablerende et nyt mediesystem, hvor den etablerede presse og de langstrakte kompromisgivende parlamentariske forhandlinger disruptes. Den nye form der etableres i den nye tid via de sociale medier, smitter af på formen i massemedierne. Dette skete  eksempelvis da Anders Samuelsen uforsonligt krævede sine 5%. Denne situation afværgedes kun af Løkkes parlamentariske omfavnelse af Liberal Alliance i yderste øjeblik. I USA lever de nu i vid udstrækning, parlamentarisk set, i den nye tid. I socialdimensionen er der ringe konsensus, borgerne genkobles mere i modsætning til hinanden end i gensidig tolerance, konsensus og forsoning.

Politiske processer og den nye tid.

Først blev rummet tømt qua de digitale mediers rum for direkte synkronisering og øjeblikkelig kommunikation uanset geografisk afstand. (En udvikling som allerede klokketid, togdrift og telegrafen satte i gang jf. Giddens). Tiden tømmes da alle processer accelereres. Ifølge Harmut Rosa er kommunikationshastigheden, persontransporthastigheden og databehandlingshastigheden eksempelvis alle reduceret med langt mere end en faktor 10. Ser vi på uret går tiden stadig som før, men når forventningsafstemningen med det forestillede vælgergrundlag kontinuerligt skal og kan opretholdes, mens fx nye statistikker og andres udmeldinger tikker ind, svinder tidshorisonten ind til kortere og kortere episoder og abrupte sekvenser. Den transformation af nutid til en fortid, der skaber fælles koordinerede forventninger til fremtiden, i en koalition af ellers uenige partier, forsvinder i øjeblikkelige opdateringer. Som Virilio i sin tid advarede imod, bliver refleksion til refleks i accelerationen af tid, og vi ender som insekter i et signalstofstyret feedbacksystem (et første ordens kybernetisk system). Innovation kræver store portioner af stabilitet, alt kan ikke ændres på en gang. I øjeblikket er samfundssystemet ustabilt, den rolige stabile innovation risikerer at slå over i revolution og emergens af helt nye ordner – disruption – hvis da ikke vi som i 30erne ender med nazisme og fascisme.

Demokrati og den nye medietid

Parlamentarisk demokrati betyder at borgerne vælger repræsentanter til at varetage deres interesser. I Danmark har vi tradition for brede forlig ind over midten. Dette system står i skarp kontrast til direkte demokrati, folkeafstemninger og særstandpunkter direkte udmeldt til borgerer, der lever i hver deres filterboble. Demokrati som vi kender det, kræver lukkede rum og tid (ses offentlighedsloven i dette lys tager den sig noget anderledes ud, end den gør ud fra den frihedsdiskurs den ellers er kritiseret ud fra – den hjælper dog ikke meget når politikerne selv går ud af de lukkede rum og melder eller lækker). Helt usandsynligt har vi efter 2. verdenskrig set størrelser som FN og EU, hvor ikke bare enkelte lande internt indgår kompromis om deres egne indre anliggender, men hvor forskellige lande, ja den hele verden har bøjet af for egne særinteresser og indgået kompromis og koordineret med hinanden. Dette er det mest tidskrævende overhovedet og altså helt umuligt i den nye tid.

Et tankeeksperiment

Med sociale medier vil vi høres og vi kræver den mulighed for interaktion og øjeblikkelig respons som disse medier skaber rum for. Vi dropper tjenester, butikker og venner der ikke fungerer i øjeblikket. Således opleves det offentlige, der har sparet alle konfrontationsmedarbejdere væk, temmelig lamt om ikke antagonistisk i sin ikke responderende majestæt. Vi er reduceret til e-boks-adresser i et utidssvarende feedbackløst offentligt system. Mener vi der er noget galt med en øjeblikkelig ydelse, vej, skole etc., føler vi ikke at vi bliver hørt, eller taget med på råd, vi løber panden mod et utidssvarende bureaukrati (der har travlt nok med at pine sig selv til døde med NPM). Skal vi genkobles som borgere, skal det gamle lokale sogneråd, lige om hjørnet, genetableres virtuelt. Kommunerne må omstrukturere sig, så vi via sociale medier altid møder en medarbejder, der véd de sidder, hvor de sidder, for at tjene os, borgerne. Og de skal have fornødne beslutningskompetencer fra kommunen, til øjeblikkeligt at iværksætte tilfredsstillende aktiviteter.

Et politisk system der matcher den nye tid, skal kunne præstere samme tidslige beredskab og evne til at synkronisere. Men da vi stadig må forudsætte, at forskellige interesser holder hinanden skak parlamentarisk set, vil en gældende lov ikke bare kunne laves om øjeblikkeligt. Dette behøver dog ikke kortslutte vores tillid til at der sker noget, eller betyde, at vi slet ikke høres. Hvis de politiske partier også indstiller sig på den nye tid, vil man hurtigt og smertefrit kunne interagere med partierne og finde et, der vil kæmpe for forslaget, eller som måske allerede gør det og som gerne vil aktivere en, til at gøre noget for sagen. Eksempelvis fremstille den aktuelle case, som ligger bag borgerhenvendelsen. En sådan altinkluderende offentlig organiseringsform, vil over tid, ikke bare genkoble os alle demokratisk, men også over tid, i denne bevægelse, kunne genrejse randområder med transport, skole, politistation mv.

Måske og kun måske, vi ved endnu ikke hvilke samfundsmæssige formationer der vil danne sig i de nye mediers kommunikative rum

Dette skete eksempelvis da Lars Løkke Rasmussen, d. 23. Februar 2016, samtidig med at Poul Pape påbegyndte sit pressemøde, om at K ikke længere ville støtte Eva Kjær, skrev at han indkaldte lederne af de blå partier, for at se, om regeringen stadig havde flertal. To situationer der før var adskilt fra hinanden smeltede sammen for journalisterne, der nu kunne spørge Pape direkte hvad han ville ud fra deres nye oplysninger.

Why we are tracking

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In this short essay, concerning why we are tracking, I will try to frame tracking as an evolutionary developed skill that humans need to survive. From an evolutionary point zero life must reflect upon itself in regard to its surrounding world as a kind of societal self-synchronization in this regard (Spencer 1890, Luhmann 2000, Tække 2014, 2011). I was inspired by Jill Walker Rettberg’s book: “Seeing Ourselves through Technology” and her presentation at the seminar: “Tracking Culture” arranged by Anders Albrechtslund in Aarhus January 2015.

Before language

Even animals have a kind of tracking themselves and each other. They have fixed action patterns for how to behave and if one in the herd behaves wrongly they are killed or excluded. You could say that this is a form of biologic based automatic tracking where a behaviour is seen through a pattern of biological selected legal behaviour.

Oral language

When language emerged humans began to install standards and norms for how to behave beyond the instincts in narratives and myths (Lévi-Strauss 1984, Habermas 1981, 77). These orally mediated myths made it possible to monitor how others in the tribe behaved as a standard for behavior (Ong 1982). We can imagine an evolutionary process where tribes with standards better adapted changing climatic etc. conditions have had advantages. When an individual was in a situation of choice it was possible for him or her to reflect over how to behave according to the orally stored standards. This is a kind of self-tracking and when the standards were used to monitor the behaviour of others it was a kind of tracking others, a kind of surveillance.

Writing

With writing the records was written down. Now society developed as hierarchies, people was counted in censuses, taxes was calculated, time was measured with sundials and water clocks. This was a huge acceleration of the societal self-synchronization. For instance people now were able to leave their hometown and travel to get resources and come back and receive back what was their belongings because every thing could be written down (Hallager 1997). The king in the center could send messages or laws out to the periphery, e.g. saying that men who owned this or that must pay tax and his soldiers could track citizen’s behavior in accordance to the law. In this period a few Greeks and later Augustine began to reflect over themselves as individuals in relation to the order of the world.

Printing

With the printing press it became possible to compare meaning from different books resulting in doubt like we saw with Descartes (Luhmann 2012, 249). Now standards was reflected back on people because now there were books saying how the prince or, for instance, the baker looked and behaved – or about how people from Florence were dressed (Eisenstein 1983). Now self-reflection in third person emerged as morally self-tracking like we see with Hume and Locke (Taylor 1996) and existentially self-tracking (Montanige). Especially puritans began to report about how they morally managed to live in accordance with their standards in form of diaries (Rettberg 2014). People began to draw themselves in paintings, and write diaries to try to observe themselves or track how they behaved in comparison to others, or to understand them self or to try to see themselves in different contexts (Rettberg 2014).

Analogue electronic media

With the analogue electronic media the societal self-synchronization again was accelerated, now even the lousiest TV series showed how every type of citizen was backstage (Meyrowitz 1985). Therefor people now had to be reflected on what could not be hidden from their backstage and include that into their behavior to present a self that were consistent over time. People used their knowledge from the electronic media to track the behavior of others and themselves. People took photos of themselves in mirrors to see themselves in different contexts and in this way try to understand themselves as humans (Rettberg).

Digital media

With the digital media we see that the need for tracking oneself and others find many new forms which generally seen is different kinds of automation of tracking. For instance tracking your blood pressure, how many steps you walk, or how you sleep. People also write about themselves on social media and blogs and get response in comments and likes from their social networks. For instance people write now I am together with this and that person on this restaurant on Facebook. People also take selfies to try to understand themselves by seeing themselves in different situations making it possible to comparer with pictures of other persons. Companies monitor what people are talking about and do and like to earn money on them. States monitor their citizens and sometime citizens from other countries to prevent terrorism or for instance to tax them.

Reflection

After the printing press society have tented to be more and more dynamic and changing. For instance Zygmunt Bauman writes about liquid modernity, and Anthony Giddens about late modernity to express how every thing, technology and the social itself continually are altering character. In Medium theory, Innis formulated an important distinction between time bias and space bias. If a medium has a time bias society will be stable with few changes over time and the other way around with media having a space bias (Innis 1991). Looking at the historical developments media have tented to get a higher and higher degree of space bias resulting in changes in standards at different places in geographical space and increased asymmetrical self-synchronizations (Rasmussen 2003). At the same time we know that the self is a relational construction in need for accept and recognition form the social (Mead 1936, p. 204). If self-tracking is a basic inherent accessory in the human mind necessary for our survival performed dialectically between the individual and the collective it is not peculiar that individuals use automated digital ways to try to synchronize with the social using digital media to track themselves or that society tries to monitor its citizens. On the other hand it is important to discuss and reflect upon the implications – which is the idea behind the suggested research program: Tracking Culture, by Anders Albrechtslund.

References

Eisenstein, E. (1983). The Printing Revolution in early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni. Press.

Habermas, J. (1981). Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Band1 Handlungsrationalität und gesellschaftliche Rationalisierung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.

Hallager, Erik (1997). Skriftkulturens tilstand år 2000 før vor tidsregning. In Hallager, Erik og Finnemann, Niels Ole 1997: Skriftkulturens tilstand år 2000 før og efter vor tidsregning. Center for kulturforskning ved Aarhus Universitet.

Innis, H. (1991, [1951]): Bias of communication. Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. (1984). Mytens struktur, I Fallos, 5 Århus 1984 pp. 6-32 [1955].

Luhmann, N. (2012 [1997]). Theory of Society – Voulme 1. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Luhmann, Niklas (1995). Social Systems. Stanford University Press. California.

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, Self and Society. London: Univ. of Chicago Press.

Meyrowitz, J. (1985). No Sence of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior. New York: Oxford Uni. Press.

Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality & Literacy. Reprinted 2000. Cornwall: Routledge.

Rasmussen, Terje 2003: Mobilitet og medieforståelse. Et arbejdspapir: http://www.media.uio.no/personer/terjer/mob%20og%20medieutv..pdf

Rettberg, J. W. (2014). Seeing Ourselves through Technology. The Internet: Palgrave Macmillan: www.palgraveconnect.com

Spencer, Herbert (1890). The Principles of Psychology. Williams and Norgate. London.

Taylor, Charles (1996). Sources of the Self. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni. Press.

Tække, J. (2014). Mediet sprog som strukturel kobling : forudsætningen for Homo Cogitus Socius. i Systemteoretiske analyser: At anvende Luhmann. red. / Gorm Harste; Morten Knudsen. Frederiksberg : Nyt fra Samfundsvidenskaberne, 2014. pp. 235-261.

Tække, J. (2011). Media as the mechanism behind structural coupling and the evolution of the mind. Paper presented at LUHMANN IN ACTION: EMPIRICAL STUDIES OF STRUCTURAL COUPLINGS, International University Centre of post-graduate studies (IUC), Dubrovnik, Croatia. http://pure.au.dk/portal/files/35259305/Dubrovnik_Taekke.pdf

Social Ambivalence: Facebook the Nonhuman Actor

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With Facebook we see a built in commercialization of our communication infrastructure to an unprecedented degree. Instead of choosing transparency, Facebook chooses to build its own business motives invisibly into the software architecture, so that it becomes a nonhuman actor. Behind our back Facebook monitors us and directs our communication and behavior in a way that is unpredictable for us.

At the macro level, we have seen similar phenomena before in previous media revolutions, like censorship in relation to the printing press and television. Historically seen, such measures may hold back development for a while, but in the longer term, society will takes full advantage of the opportunities the new media provide. So in this view Facebook’s model has a limited life, before the transparent affordances of digital media will take effect.

At the micro-sociological level, following Joshua Meyrowitz, every time a new communication medium comes into being, it results in new situations, which we need to develop new and adequate norms to cope with (Meyrowitz 1986). Until new norms have developed the new situations caused by the new medium, give rise to social ambivalences because we cannot cope adequately with them. The digital media generally give rise to a number of social ambivalences, because our system of norms needs time to catch up with the new situations, provided by the digital media. E.g. is it okay to concentrate on your smartphone while drinking coffee with your family, or during school time?

When we look specifically at Facebook, the company’s implementation of business motives in its software architecture gives rise to a number of ambiguities, that result in social ambivalent situations for its users, that is not caused by the new situations and possibilities of the digital medium.

The argument of the paper is, that Facebook instead of just providing us with the opportunities of digital media – which the company does – also provides us with ambiguities resulting in social ambivalences. It is also an argument that these ambiguities may hold back the evolution of new norms that are adequate with the new medium environment. In the following the paper put forward six ambiguities caused by Facebook’s functional architecture.[1]

Uncertainty about Facebook’s use of our content

It is unclear how far our “Status Updates”, photos and activities are spread out on Facebook. For example, it is unclear whether and when Facebook’s third-party companies are using our “Likes” for advertising purposes in relation to other users.

Uncertainty about who gets our Status Updates

We do not know how many of our “Friends” who will get our “Status Updates” in their “News Feet” – it is regulated by algorithms (EdgeRank) shaped to optimize the time we spend on Facebook. Only few of our “Facebook Friends” actually get our “Status Updates” in their “News Feed” and we do not know whom it is.

Ambiguity of “common” frame of reference

It adds confusion that Facebook is not a community, but consist of as many parallel networks, as there are users. Many get the feeling that they communicate with all of their friends and thus will be met like they do within a community. In contrast to community communication, the few friends who actually see our “Status Update” will not have a common ground to respond from. Instead, our Facebook friends often do not feel commitment enough to “Like” or “Comment” because these “friends” do not have a common frame of reference, and mostly care about their own reputation and social identity.

Uncertainty about when to use filters

It is unclear when to filter out other people’s access to our profiles and when other filters us, and why they do it. The way it is now, some because they cannot see through the many private settings, choose to “defriend” looser relationships (Sørensen 2013). In addition, we do not get feedback explaining why other users filter our opportunities to see what they write, or prevent us from writing on their “Wall” – or why they “defriend” us.

Uncertainty about news criteria

It adds confusion that Facebook is a quasi mass media, as we do not know its news criteria or mechanisms of viral spread. Suddenly we all sit with an editor’s responsibility, and risk making a fool of ourselves or write something illegal.

Uncertainty about social obligations

It is unclear how much we have to be on Facebook, and how active we have to be there, to meet our social obligations to our Facebook friends (and EdgeRank), as well, as it is unclear when and how much we can take the liberty to go on Facebook in regard to the persons we are physically together with.

All these uncertainties make it ambiguous and socially ambivalent to be on Facebook. But if we’re not on Facebook, we exclude ourselves from a large part of the societal communication. It is a built-in commercialization of our communication infrastructure to an unprecedented degree.

Imagine a parallel to the old postal mail

Imagine if you sent a letter to some particular addressees, and the letter also was distributed to others, while not all of them, you had addressed, received it.

It would perhaps be bearable to live with sending letters for free on the condition that there were printed advertisements on the envelopes. But if information about yourself, and what you were doing, and who you sent letters to, was printed with your name and photo on others envelops, in their mutual correspondence, it would probably be too much for most people.

Business motives built into the architecture

Instead of choosing transparency, Facebook chooses to build its own business motives invisibly into the software architecture, so that it becomes a nonhuman actor. Behind our back Facebook monitors us and directs our communication and behavior in a way that is unpredictable for us. If Facebook, or this medium’s replacement in the future, gave up the nontransparent elements and instead optimized transparency of the functional architecture, it could act as a part of the evolutionary process, where not only social norms on the user side are developed, but where the medium itself were part of this process, being accommodating in designing its functional architecture to be so clear and transparent as possible.

Not only Facebook but also Google cause – through their algorithms – that the outlook and possibilities offered by digital media are amputated and distorted. Similar transitional phenomena, has been seen before under previous media revolutions. Historically, such measures may hold back development for a while, but in the longer term, society will takes full advantage of the opportunities the new media provide. But the ambiguities keeps the development back for a while, and in that period it makes it harder to overcome the ambivalences that the new media throw us in.

References

Finnemann, N.O. (2001). ”The Internet – A New Communicational Infrastructure”. CFI monograph Series. Vol 2.

Sørensen, A. S. (2013). Facebook – kommunikation for kommunikationens skyld. In Tække & Jensen (Ed) Facebook – fra socialt netværk til metamedie. København: Samfundslitteratur. Pp. 117 – 136.

Meyrowitz, J. (1986). No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior. New York: Oxford Uni. Press.

[1] The concept of “functional architecture” I have from Finnemann (2001).