Status Update Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age Alice E. Marwick

Publication date:
13 Jan 2015
Yale University Press
368 pages: 235 x 156mm
1 b-w illus.
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Social media, once heralded as revolutionary and democratic, have instead proved exclusionary and elitist

Social media technologies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook promised a new participatory online culture. Yet, technology insider Alice Marwick contends in this insightful book, “Web 2.0” only encouraged a preoccupation with status and attention. Her original research—which includes conversations with entrepreneurs, Internet celebrities, and Silicon Valley journalists—explores the culture and ideology of San Francisco’s tech community in the period between the dot com boom and the App store, when the city was the world’s center of social media development.
Marwick argues that early revolutionary goals have failed to materialize: while many continue to view social media as democratic, these technologies instead turn users into marketers and self-promoters, and leave technology companies poised to violate privacy and to prioritize profits over participation. Marwick analyzes status-building techniques—such as self-branding, micro-celebrity, and life-streaming—to show that Web 2.0 did not provide a cultural revolution, but only furthered inequality and reinforced traditional social stratification, demarcated by race, class, and gender.

Alice E. Marwick is assistant professor, communication and media studies, Fordham University, and the director of the Donald McGannon Communication Research Center. She lives in New York City.

"Marwick makes a compelling case that the rhetoric does not always match the reality, particularly when it comes to social media."—Ravi Mattu, Financial Times

"A must-read for anyone interested in the culture of the tech world and in the techniques of status-building in contemporary digital society."—Finola Kerrigan, Times Higher Education Supplement

"It is an incisive portrait of a local culture that is rapidly becoming global: one in which attention equals success, fortune favours the self-aggrandising and luck is always mistaken for destiny."—Jacob Mikanowski, Prospect Magazine

"Marwick brilliantly gets beneath the shiny exterior of the Web 2.0 startup scene to uncover the ways in which geeks, entrepreneurs, and technologists use their creations to jockey for status and seek attention. This book is critical for all who care about or use social media."—danah boyd, Microsoft Research

"With thoughtfulness and rigor, Marwick explains the importance of major social networks from cultural, economic, and human standpoints. Status Update offers a true understanding of what it means to share ourselves online, with a healthy skepticism about Silicon Valley’s utopian promises."—Anil Dash, ThinkUp

"Marwick masterfully weaves together what motivates us as humans and what defines identity online. If you want to understand the future of social media, this book is required reading."—Dennis Crowley, co-founder Foursquare

"San Francisco and environs have long been the home of American dreaming. In this fascinating book, Marwick interrogates Silicon Valley’s recent dream: Web 2.0 and the tools and behaviors it spawned."—Clay Shirky, author of Cognitive Surplus

"Marwick's lively, sophisticated book shows how deeply intertwined our lives are with the whims and biases of a handful of coders. An essential read for anyone who is curious about how social media work."—Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Googlization of Everything—and Why We Should Worry