Social media stage online patterns of social interaction that differ remarkably from ordinary forms of acting, talking and relating. To unravel these differences, we review the literature on micro-sociology and social psychology and derive a shorthand version of socially-embedded forms of interaction. We use that version as a yardstick for reconstructing and assessing the patterns of sociality social media promote. Our analysis shows that social media platforms stage highly stylized forms of social interaction such as liking, following, tagging, etc. that essentially serve the purpose of generating a calculable and machine-readable data footprint out of user platform participation. This online stylization of social interaction and the data it procures are, however, only the first steps of what we call the infrastructuring of social media. Social media use the data footprint that results from the stylization of social interaction to derive larger (and commercially relevant) social entities such as audiences, networks and groups that are constantly fed back to individuals and groups of users as personalized recommendations of one form or another. Social media infrastructure sociality as they provide the backstage operations and technological facilities out of which new habits and modes of social relatedness emerge and diffuse across the social fabric.
Alaimo, C. and Kallinikos, J. (2019), "Social Media and the Infrastructuring of Sociality", Kornberger, M., Bowker, G.C., Elyachar, J., Mennicken, A., Miller, P., Nucho, J.R. and Pollock, N. (Ed.) Thinking Infrastructures (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 62), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 289-306. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20190000062018
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