Whose Interest? Denaturalising Social Media Through a (Re)design-based Method: The Case of Facebook

Elisabetta Adami, University of Leeds, UK

Media studies are increasingly adopting a critical lens to interpret web and social media practices as influenced by corporate-driven purposes, such as attracting number of views/clicks, selling advertising space, selling users’ data, etc. Yet, practices need to be analytically located in relation to actual/possible representations to reveal and evidence the impact of dominant corporate-business models and ideologies. Through detailed analysis/redesign of a Facebook user’s wall and profile, the article will present a method for denaturalising social media as semiotic technologies. It traces the impact of media structures and practices of “distribution” and “production” on “design” principles and “discourse” (Kress and van Leeuwen 2001) lying behind 1) the design of posts, 2) the design of the social media platform/interface, 3) the kinds of information required from users, and 4) the possibilities for agency given to users. The method adopts a (re)design-based approach, driven by the question: How would the semiotics of social media change if interests driving web media presence were different? Through visual commutation of semiotic resources, it works on redesigning the multimodal and interactive configuration of posts, platform/interface, profile set- up, and users’ options, achieving greater effects in denaturalising media ideologies than critical discourse analysis. The method can be extended to other social media and has applications for raising users’ digital media awareness in both formal and informal learning settings.

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