Facebook's Global Imaginary: The Symbolic Production of the World through Social Media

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 23 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Delia DUMITRICA, Erasmus University, Netherlands
This paper discusses the symbolic production of the ‘global’ through Facebook. Methodologically, the paper rests upon autoethnography and platform analysis. The critical examination of my own experience of Facebook (the autoethnographic dimension) seeks to “connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social and political” (Ellis, 2004, p. xix). This examination is supplemented by a reading of the platform’s visual interface in terms of the categories, options and services offered through Facebook (e.g. Gillespie, 2010). Both methods are driven by the larger goal of understanding how the notion of the ‘global world’ comes to be produced through our use of the platform.

The analysis is structred along three lines: the intersection between the user’s socioeconomic position and her Facebook customization choices and use practices; the role of the Facebook NewsFeed algorithm; and the wider discourses through which Facebook as a company has positioned itself as a global medium. The global imaginary produced through Facebook appears to us a celebration of our technologically-enabled individual cosmopolitanism. Yet, this imaginary masks the centrality of socioeconomic class and of commercial interests in structuring choices and creating not a cosmopolitan self, but rather a cosmopolitan privilege. The production of the global imaginary through Facebook valorizes personal choice as the condition for the development of a cosmopolitan subject position, while simultaneously veiling the structural constraints shaping these choices in the first place.


Ellis, C. 2004. The Ethnographic I. A Methodological Novel about Auto­ethnography. Walnut Creek, Lan­ham, NY, Oxford: Altamira Press.

Gillespie, T. L. (2010). The Politics of “Platforms”. New Media & Society,12(3),347-364.