Extensions of Their Users
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.
Chapter Seventeen: The Rise of Mega Monopolies in the Digital Age
At the beginning of the Internet/World Wide Web revolution, we along with many others, believed that the Internet would have a decentralizing effect and bring an end to monopolies in communications because everyone on the Net would have the ability to communicate to a global audience. The reverse has happened; the digital monopolies are bigger than the pre-digital industrial monopolies. This is certainly the case with Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.
Corey Anton (2018) traced our optimism regarding the liberating effects of the Internet and the World Wide Web way back to McLuhan’s observations of the effects of electric media, when Corey wrote:
McLuhan is, in some ways, a main culprit in helping people imagine that democracy was going to be inherently spread by the decentralizing character of electric media. He did not say as much, but his main claim that electric technologies decentralize led many people to assume that the new media were just by definition, or by inherent character, more democratic, more bottom-up, than traditional print-based hierarchies. And, admittedly, there were senses that some of the platforms seemed that way from the beginning.
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One of us (RKL), back in 2000, wrote: “The Internet and the World Wide Web have played a prominent role in the breakdown of Industrial Era monopolies of knowledge by providing a medium whereby non-professionals have been able to share their experiences and network their knowledge (Logan 2004, 60).” This was not the best...
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