Alternative Social Media: From Critique to Code

SAGE Handbook of Social Media. Eds. Burgess, Poell, and Marwick, Forthcoming

23 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2017

See all articles by Robert Gehl

Robert Gehl

University of Utah - Department of Communication

Date Written: April 20, 2016

Abstract

In the past decade, corporate social media, for all its variety, has converged on a dominant model: the sites are owned and controlled by a few people; they rely on their users to provide content; and user activity is monitored and the resulting data is sold to marketers. This model, largely an American one, is not without its critics, especially because the dominance of American corporate social media sites means that non-U.S. users are subject to U.S. government surveillance. An interesting subset of corporate social media critics are those who are actively building alternative social media systems that seek to retain the pleasures of corporate social media while excising the problems of centralized control and surveillance. This chapter theorizes alternative social media and distinguishes it from corporate social media along three main lines: technical infrastructures (software platforms, network topologies, and interface design), political economy (funding models, labor practices, and use of intellectual property regimes), and cultural practices (surveillance, activism, and social interaction). The empirical data for this study comes from the author's analysis and participation in a diverse range of alternative social media sites, including Twister, Diaspora, Ello, GNU social, and several Dark Web social media systems, as well as interviews with alternative social media creators and users.

Keywords: alternative social media, alternative media, Twister GNU social

Suggested Citation

Gehl, Robert, Alternative Social Media: From Critique to Code (April 20, 2016). SAGE Handbook of Social Media. Eds. Burgess, Poell, and Marwick, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2955827

Robert Gehl (Contact Author)

University of Utah - Department of Communication ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.robertwgehl.org

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