The Posthuman Reality of Feed-Based Social Media Systems
DeJong, Dylan J.
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The conceptual boundary between the subject and user parallels the boundary between humanist and posthumanist definitions of human being, and the challenges of new media communications technology today impel this evolution. My dissertation discusses subjectivity as the self-differentiation of a particular set of processes, and the influence of communications media upon this process. Here, it includes the basis of differentiation for an I, including: the question of identity, potential agency, and knowledge. The collage of attributes that constitute a portrait of what I call the user, the subject of online social media, is demonstrably emergent, dispersed, and discursive; in terms of agency and sovereignty, the useras with other instances of posthuman subjectivityis contingent upon its media ecology and is decidedly less free than other definitions of subjectivity (such the self-sovereign individual of the social contract, which comes to be as a negation of contingency). The concept of self-sovereignty excludes the influences of history, and other influences upon the emergence of the subject, emphasizing an exclusively internal causation. The users existence, conversely, is processual and dispersed throughout networks; its being and agency are dividual, not individual. The subjectivity of the user must thus be thought in terms of its mediated contingency, as the self-sovereign agency that is characteristic of humanist traditions is less applicable to todays media ecologies. I argue that the traits of the subject in humanist traditions can be interpreted as the epiphenomena of societies whose information ecology was dominated by logocentric, typographic literacy. Today, with the advent of social media and its users, we can understand from a new vantage how subjectivities are modulated, amplified, and attenuated by technical distributions, particularly the unseen (and unseeable) non-human agents in the computation systems that constitute online social networks.