Thursday 26 February 2015 – Lunchtime seminar with Professor Ben Light (Digital Media Studies, Queensland University)

An image of Professor Ben Light (Digital Media Studies, Queensland University)

Title: Disconnecting with social networking sites
Speaker: Professor Ben Light (Digital Media Studies, Queensland University of Technology)

Professor Ben Light is Professor of Digital Media Studies, in the Creative Industries Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. His research concerns how digital media and users make arrangements work for them beyond the design room. He is a senior editor for the Journal of Information Technology, and sits of the editorial boards of New Media and Society and Social Media and Society. His monograph, Disconnecting with Social Networking Sites, (Palgrave Macmillan) was published in November 2014.

Connection clearly is important when it comes to developing understandings of our engagements with social networking sites (SNS), whether this is through our actions to build identity, gossip, undertake work, make money, improve our health and the many other things we engage with such spaces for. However, I am not convinced that it is always helpful to maintain a focus upon connection. I do not think current research is necessarily ignorant of this situation either. Many of those who study the Internet and SNS are keen to acknowledge the ongoing work that people put in to making SNS work for them, and there is discussion of issues which point to disconnection. We know that SNS are full of contradictions, despite the strong discourses of connectivity we are presented with by their makers. SNS contain temporal, spatial and cultural gaps and there is no one author in complete control of the narratives they create. Yet at the same time, we are informed that attempting to delete content in networked publics is futile and our definitions of SNS emphasise connectivity.

In this talk I will discuss some of the ideas regarding disconnection that I have developed in a recent book length study and extended further in a journal paper. I put forward a theory of disconnective practice which provides a way of thinking about our participation with digitally networked media as requiring opportunities for disconnection interwoven with connection. Moreover, I argue that such opportunities for disconnection are needed by SNS providers as much as they are users. Disconnection represents, I argue, socioeconomic lubricant. Thus, whilst I agree that connection is central to our engagements with SNS, and I can understand why our definitions and research attentions have been directed predominantly in this direction. I believe disconnection is just as fundamental to our understanding of what SNS can be and how we make sense of them. The thinking I put forward in this talk, I hope, offers one way we might start to enrol disconnection.

1.00PM – 2.00PM

See here for details of other seminars in the series.

All SHU staff and students are welcome to attend the C3RI Lunchtime Research Seminars. If you are from outside of the University and would like to attend a seminar, please email C3RI Administrator to arrange entry.