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Inhabiting the Social Networks – a „different“ approach to the online-realm and its subversive powers

In between Spaces Off- vs. Online

The discussion of space in connection with the Social Media is inextricably linked to the anthropological  discourse on the matter. Oneself orientates with the help of spatial paradigms. In accordance with space man develops his senses, his imagination and his memory, thus man is socialised within spatial structures (Jan und Aleida Assmann). A more particular form of the anthropological space discourse is that of the ‘space-in-between’. This variant discourse occupies an important strategic role within post-colonial studies. From a minority online-perspective the ‘space-in-between’ undermines the hegemonic structuring of spaces – it is not my intention to call democratic structures hegemonic results, but with the term “hegemonic” I would like to hint at the manmade quality of any system. The networking within the various social media platforms represent the space-in-between, as they are located in the interstices of reality. Any Users entering the online realms is connected to his undergoing a change of perception, or more radically, a process of transition. Within the Social Networks the User has a room that allows him to reflect upon his analogue-Odyssey, without having to take into account imposed advice and its immediate consequences:

“And now I realized that I couldn’t return […]  to any part of my old life. I could approach it only from the outside. […] Once you get used to it, reality is as irresistible as a club Perhaps that’s the way it had to be; I don’t know. Nor do I know whether accepting the lesson has placed me in the rear or in the avantgarde. That, perhaps, is a lesson for history […], I try belatedly to study the lesson of my own life. […] And I awoke in the blackness. Fully awake now, I simply lay there as though paralyzed. I could think of nothing else to do. Later I would try to find my way out, but now I could only lie on the floor, reliving the dream. (Ralph Ellison Invisible Man)

I know, this might sound far fetched and rather philosophical but the consequence is very much a matter worth to be discussed. For many the Social Networks become “[…] an alternative cosmovision characterized by the ludic undermining of all norms. The carnivalesque principle abolishes hierarchies, levels social classes, and creates another life free from conventional rules and restrictions.” (Robert Stam)

Somewhere in (-between) the online realms of FB and foursquare, between Twitter and Blogspot Users find a shelter that can neither be invaded nor colonized by supremacy or hegemonic madness. The networks are social places in which the inconsistencies of celestial and terrestrial spaces are lingering in ambivalent harmony, while the offline-world appears to be violently displaced in unindebted warfare. Now the same irreconcilable inconsistencies find their natural ground and stability in any Users retreat. All racial, social, cultural and political issues are present, waiting for the User to mold them. Finally, after having been betrayed by a variety of figures of authority, the user now discovers the freedom that lies within the Social networks.

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