Facebook, meet Bourdieu.

I was in the middle of writing a blog post about boundary maintenance within the retail workforce while watching the show Criminal Minds. All of the sudden I picked up on some dialogue that made me instantly think of Bourdieu. The line, which I had to look up for accurate citation, was:

Rossi: “Can somebody explain to me the appeal of these sites? ‘Eating sushi tonight, yummmm. Boss is keeping me late at work, grrrrr.’ Whose life is so important that we’d be interested in that kind of detail?”

Morgan: “I dunno, I guess that’s the running joke, right? I mean, nobody is. But we’d all like to believe there’s actually an audience out that wants to follow our every move.”

The thing that really triggered a response to this show that was really just serving as a background noise was Morgan’s use of the word audience. Typically, when one is posting pictures, statuses, “poking” someone etc. via facebook there is not an inherent focus on how it will be received by their “audience”. Rather, it is viewed as individual interactions between the user and the individual with whom they are interacting. For some reason this connection never struck me, and it may well be that I’m just late to the party.

Facebook is an interesting piece of technology in that it allows for the user to search for friends using a variety of different network criteria: name, school, city etc. However as the technology has continued to develop we now have those annoying little boxes showing the “people you may know”, and sometimes a variety of different subjects that your other friends have “liked” As well profiles of people you do not know show their likes and interests. By using these fields, from Bourdieu’s sense, one can expand their social network. Into this plays his concept of habitus. In his work he states “the paradigm of all the ‘choices’ through which the habitus tends to favour experiences likely to reinforce it (or the empirically confirmed fact that people tend to talk about politics with those who have the same opinions)” (Anthro Theory p. 502) which I found particularly applicable to the situation. In my mind the entire concept of facebook, whether it was the intention of the creator or not, seems to play directly into the concept of fields and habitus and the ways in which they relate.

Similarly the application of this technology by the user plays into Bourdieu’s concept of habitus as well. The way in which I find this most applicable is the use of the “status” function. Everything that is said has its meaning which can be taken at a literal face value. However the underlying directive of “updating a status” is to gain the attention of the audience by applying to a variety of fields with which members of the audience receptive to. This is a “modus operandi which is not consciously mastered” (498) and thus is not the immediate intention of the user, however it is an action whose “discourse contains an ‘objective intention…which outruns the conscious intentions of its apparent author” (498).

It is through this dichotomous interaction of conscious literal reflection of thought and emotion and the subconscious use of literary devices through which the user applies one or more Bourdieuian fields within this reflection that users are able to reach their largest and most ideal audience.

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3 thoughts on “Facebook, meet Bourdieu.

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