Here is my contribution to the Social Media Reader
As more of our data, and the programs to manipulate and communicate this data, move online, there is a growing tension between the dynamics on the front (where users interact) and on the back (to which the owners have access). If we look at the front-end, the social web, or Web2.0, may well advance semiotic democracy, that is, “the ability of users to produce and disseminate new creations and to take part in public cultural discourse” (Stark, 2006). If we consider the back-end, however, may just as well turn into Spectacle 2.0, new forms of control and manipulation, masked by a mere simulation of involvement and participation, creating the contemporary version of what Guy Debord (1967: § 6) called “the heart of the unrealism of the real society.” Both of these scenarios are currently being realized. Yet, how these relate to one another, which is dominant in which situation and for which users, is not yet clear and likely to remain highly flexible. The social meaning of the technologies is not determined by the technologies themselves, rather it will be shaped and reshaped by how they are embedded into social life, advanced, and transformed by the myriad of individual actors, large institutions, practices, and projects that constitute contemporary reality.