Ulises Mejias has written a wonderful paper (subscription required) on how social networks don’t just enable participation – but limit them. Or as he asks: “Whether social network services engender publics (where opinion can be expressed freely) or masses (where opinion can be expressed freely but is not realised in action)”.
It’s a fascinating counterpoint to the ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric (think Twitter and the ‘Iran revolution’) that surrounds so much writing on social networks.
If you’re able to get hold of a copy, I recommend reading the paper in full, as there’s far too much of interest to summarise here. But if you can’t, here are some of the points that Mejias makes: Continue reading