Welcome to an evolving world, and an evolving “book.”
I began writing this book in 2017 with college students in mind. Since then, this text has expanded with years of teaching and collecting responses from students and with more media content. In 2020 we even began integrating student media pieces into this book through our iVoices Student Media Lab. Frankly, calling this a book has begun to feel awkward. If you are a college student, this means that a lot of the content in this book is like social media itself, created and interpreted by your peers using social networking sites like Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Reddit, Instagram, and more. It is drawn from the web, including blogs, videos, social media posts, and comments, on fixing cars, following a favorite band, exploring fashion, search engines, and maps that let you mark places. If visitors can weigh in or post their input for others to see, it’s social media, and this book may cover it.
A Note on Impermanence
Many books pretend permanence. This one is unusual in acknowledging that books today – indeed any written information today – will not hold steady value for long. The value of this webbook is directly proportional to the human attention it can manage to sustain.
All informational content today, and particularly online content, is comprised of structures built on shifting foundations. Books, and especially online books, are like the New Jersey beaches I grew up on. On those beaches it is easy to forget that the sands beneath treasured the boardwalks and evening bingo games are drifting into the sea, to settle on ocean floors and other shores.
In the case of this book, the sands on which it is built are always shifting and changing; some of the channels that will suck them away fastest are already in view. First we will lose the hyperlinks, as one, then a few, then many links lead to disappeared pages; indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if a link or two is already broken today on the first day of publication. Second, the platform on which this book is published could be compromised. (We hope not. As an Open Educational Resource drawn from open source development, Pressbooks has an advantage over other proprietary platforms. But things happen.) Third and last, this book’s truths will be cast into doubt as new information emerges around situations about which I’ve written.
I will do my best to keep this book relevant through all of these shifts. And I hope readers will find my writing voice human enough to contact me and alert me when something has slipped out of place.
The above caveats notwithstanding, this book has value, and truths, and evidence of the interaction of people with people and with technologies and information. The University of Arizona’s School of Information and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences were the incubators for insights in this book, and students and graduate assistants in the eSociety class Social Media and Ourselves helped it grow. For audiovisual content, I am indebted to spectacular repositories offered via Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, and Pixabay. I am indebted to open source developers of platforms like Pressbooks, and the University of Arizona Libraries for negotiating their use for faculty at UArizona. I am especially grateful to the Center for University Education and Scholarship, who have funded this book’s migration to Pressbooks and its opening of authorship to students.
How to read this book
This “webbook” is currently hosted on Pressbooks. If it looks to you the way it does to me when I preview it, the menu – a stack of lines icon – at your upper left will drop down to show you the book’s major Parts, which can then be expanded with a + sign to show you the chapters within each part. The arrows at the bottom also help you navigate to the next chapter.
Below is more information on Pressbooks if you need it.
You can learn the most about social media through this text if you perform, as you read, some critical self-reflection – that is, intense inward examination – of your own use of online social networking technologies. What do you do online, and why? Really? What makes that a good idea? Is it possible it’s not a good idea? Why does that process look as it does? Can you envision it working differently? I invite you to critically engage with the content covered in this book. To examine social media critically, you will need to challenge your own beliefs and practices, as well as social norms, institutions, corporations, and governments.