Volume 19, 2018
Valeria Ferraretto, Silvia Ferrari, Verbena Giambastiani
On- or Off-Life?
Life in the Era of Social Network
Online activities are becoming intertwined with almost everything we do. Social networks are so engrained in our lives that they have turned into a crucial part of what we do, both online and offline. Thus, the first question is, How are social media changing us? The second one is instead, How much has social media changed society? When a medium changes its form, human life is modified accordingly. Regarding the latter, if we assume a Foucaultian perspective, we should consider social media as the dispositif that can develop the subjectivity of individuals. Sharing information on social media represents something more than a simple act. This is a performative act à la Austin that shapes and disciplines human life by means of a virtual crowd which compulsively shares information and general opinions. The online dimension of life is either a technique or a practice that makes the dispositif operative. It enhances and maintains the exercise of institutional, physical and public power. What are the public and private consequences of virtual reality? In what kind of network of power is the virtual life enmeshed? According to Walter Benjamin, the digital era has a positive aspect: it allows humans to be aware of the poverty of human experience in general. However, this is not a lament for the old days. Benjamin introduces a new positive concept of barbarism. It has a creative force: the barbarian is a destroyer, but also a constructor. In this new Erlebnis, there is not a progressive linear time; rather, posting, sharing and experiencing happens simultaneously. Digital life is the beginning of a new historical orientation where virtual reality is an extension of the “offline” mode.