Friday, June 13, 2014

Facebook and Foucault's Concept of Heterotopia


I get a mention in this essay by Robin Rymarczuk (University of Groningen, Netherlands) and Maarten Derksen (University of Groningen), "Different Spaces: exploring Facebook as Heterotopia."

The essay's Abstract states: 

"In this paper we explore the space of Facebook, and use Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia to describe it. We show that the heterotopic nature of Facebook explains not only much of its attraction, but even more the discomfort that many people, users as well as 
non–users, experience in it. Analysing Facebook as a heterotopia brings its relation to other spaces into focus: it is a world in the world, that juxtaposes and merges 
other spaces into ‘une espace autre’."

Rymasrczuk and Derksen's concern is "not primarily with what users do on Facebook, but with what Facebook, considered as a space, does to the user." (Note: I've been reading through It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. This text is mostly concerned with what users do on Facebook.)

Facebook is repulsive to some, as a space, as a "site." It is, in Foucaultian language, a "heterotopia"; viz., a place (topos) which is "other" (heteros). Many have "quit" Facebook, meaning they left the space denoted by the term "Facebook." I was once one of those quitters, and am quoted in this essay as such.

I rejoined Facebook. I still experience much of it as heterotopian but feel called to enter the wasteland for the sake of relationship. (Cmp. John 1's The word became flesh and dwelt among us.) But my dwelling in Facebookland is still only partial, and not total immersion, since I block tons of the chatter. It's that which makes it a heterotopia for me. (My choice to partially immerse in l'espace autre is mostly due to time constraints.)