Upcoming talk: When Social Media are the News, Bard College

Thursday, April 20, Bard College, NY

What does it mean for the public sphere when social media become a news platform in their own right? I’ll be discussing how the merger of social media with the news media has troubling consequences for politics and shared understandings of reality.


A decade ago, social media—that is, social network sites like MySpace and Facebook—were taking off among teens and fan communities. News consumption in the US was shifting as well, as cable news outstripped network shows and print circulation declined. Only a few years later, Facebook and Twitter became widespread, perhaps losing their cool among young people. As social media coalesce into a new mass medium, these platforms integrate news stories into spaces previously envisioned for leisure and friendship. Planned changes to the Facebook News Feed algorithm cultivated this process further. By 2015, breaking events like the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris unfolded online in a new way, sparking the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag and public memorials across Europe hours later. Reading news websites was already part of daily practice among young people I studied in Berlin in the late 2000s, but by 2015, social media became the place to encounter and experience news stories. This shift is reshaping how the news circulates, facilitating viral “fake” news and disinformation regimes. Social media contribute to reconfiguring the meaning of public and private, but what is at stake when social media are the news?

Time: 6:00 pm
Location: Olin, Room 202
Contact: Jonah Rubin
E-mail: jrubin@bard.edu