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Understanding Social Media

Extensions of Their Users

Series:

Robert K. Logan and Mira Rawady

The purpose of this book is to understand the nature of social media and the impact they are having on almost all aspects of modern-day existence from family life and social interactions to education and commerce. Just as fish are unaware of the water they swim in and we humans are unaware of the air that we breathe so it is that the users of social media are unaware of the effects of these media and take their existence as a natural part of their environment. The authors make use of Marshall McLuhan’s media ecology approach to understanding media in order to reveal the effects of social media on their users, how they are changing the nature of our social interactions and how we through our interaction with social media have become actual extensions of our social media, the reverse of McLuhan’s notion that media are extensions of mankind.

The authors analyze the major social media apps including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tinder, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and blogs as well as examining the Splinternet and the social media scene in Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam and the Islamic world. Understanding Social Media studies the impacts of social media monopolies, the nature of advertising and branding in social media apps and the social media front in cyberwarfare and concludes with an analysis of the social media counter revolution waged by players who actually helped to create social media.

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Chapter Sixteen: Pre-digital Age Monopolies

Extract

In this chapter we will explore the phenomenon of monopoly formation before the digital age so as to understand how the formation of monopolies changed with the advent of the digital technologies of personal computers, the Internet and the World Wide Web. As we will discover monopolies have been a fact of life throughout human history beginning with chiefdoms that date back to Palaeolithic times.

Before the formation of chiefdoms humans organized themselves in what scholars have deemed Big Man societies (Johnson & Earle 1987). A ‘big man’ is the leader for a local group consisting of many related nuclear families. He is critical for internal dispute resolution, risk management, trade and intergroup alliances. He is a charismatic leader who rules at the pleasure of his followers and can be replaced by a rival. He does not control all of the resources of the community of which he is the head nor does he take the lead in all the activities of his society leaving that to the local experts who are not necessarily related to him or beholden to him. That all changes with the evolution from Big Man societies to Chiefdoms which emerge as the population of local groups increased.

The Chiefdom is similar to the local group in terms of the economy but there is enough richness so that a surplus is generated often through capital investments such as irrigation, fishing boats, or trade. The surplus is used to support the chief’s activities,...

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