Facebook has created an unprecedented form of mediated information consumption. Its stated goal is to make online and offline interactions more ‘social’. I examine various aspects of what this might mean, using questionnaires, focus groups and interviews as well as extensive online participant observation and ethnography. Beginning with an analysis of online activism and protest dating back as far as 2011 that manifested only online, I then move to an analysis of the recent #FeesMustFall protests as a lens to investigate the use of Facebook by this ‘real world’ protest movement. I examine how and why Facebook is trying to monopolise various aspects of interpersonal online and mediated communication, and theorise how in doing so Facebook creates a state of visibility which echoes Foucault’s invocation of Bentham’s panopticon. I then investigate how Facebook can be habitus (Bourdieu) and through this naturalisation and ubiquity be a vehicle of consumerist hegemony, especially with the concept of the ‘personal brand’. This raises questions of the productive tensions that arise when the concepts such as visibility, attention, popularity and privacy collide. I unpack this notion with reference to what can be seen as recent fetishization of privacy by Facebook. All leading to an investigation of what the dynamics of this ‘attention economy’ could mean, as South African young adults experience it.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2018.