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Finally, Facebook and its users have been the object of media studies since its early days, and in several recent studies [ 3 ] the anger and annoyance of users and quitters is an important focus. We draw on all these sources [ 4 ] to illustrate our argument that Facebook can be fruitfully conceptualized as a heterotopia, since it clarifies in particular the nature of this discontent, and draws its various aspects together. We hope our argument will invite further study along the same lines. Like utopias, heterotopias relate to other spaces by both representing and at the same time inverting or distorting them.

Unlike utopias, which are unattainable and inherently unreal, heterotopias are real spaces. The first principle entails the assumption that every culture in the world creates heterotopias, although they can take varied forms. The second principle states that. Society guides, pushes and makes established heterotopias change or adopt novel functions and new meanings because these other spaces are intrinsically embedded in a changing culture.

Such other spaces enter into relationships with their surroundings to constitute peculiar spaces with attributes entirely their own. Fairgrounds and festivals, for instance, use time in a temporally finite fashion, that is, they appear and then disappear again — existing only in short intervals. The cemetery, on the other hand, disregards time, while museums and libraries accumulate it.

If we do not adhere to the rites, permission is withheld. The otherness of a heterotopia, whether it is characterized by illusion or by perfection, calls into question the reality of the ordinary spaces around it. Heterotopias are disturbing. The concept of heterotopia has proven itself useful in the critical analysis of many places.

Disney World, for example, has been described as a magical small world that both represents and distorts Western consumerist society; it teaches children a belief in enjoyment, the necessary means for which are only available through the market Bruchansky, Other heterotopic analyses have focused on language and art [ 14 ], identity and experience [ 15 ], politics [ 16 ] and notions of geographical space [ 17 ].

Heterotopia and the City: Public Space in a Postcivil Society

Given this broad body of research, it is not surprising that cyberspace invited similar analyses when it came to prominence in the s. Heterotopia is a concept that is easily abused. All heterotopias regulate access with a system of opening and closing. Only on condition of performing certain acts like purification, identification, registration, payment, demonstration or worship, permission to enter is granted.

Although Facebook is free, it does have a system of opening and closing. A user can only enter the space of Facebook when registration and identification self—disclosure has been completed. When entering Facebook, users are carefully guided through its features and are taught where to post and read. Then they are asked to identify and register themselves.

If the user follows the rules of conduct correctly they can start immersing themselves in the world of Facebook. Inside, openness and restrictions are combined in a way that sometimes jars. Yet on the other hand it constitutes a heavily gated community with all—powerful, omnipresent but invisible system moderators behind controls. The user has to agree to terms of agreement — a contract essentially stripping away all property claims of information posted within this space.

You can, of course, log off any time, and deactivating your page effectively hiding its information from other users is fairly straightforward, but permanently deleting a page is an option that is not easily found. When you deactivate a page, Facebook keeps all of its content. Permanently deleting your information, however, is quite difficult. To actually delete your account you must find your way through five pages until you get to the point where you can request Facebook to eliminate it [ 25 ].

The way Facebook opens and closes is often by means of a trade—off. For instance, Facebook offers a sense of increased control and oversight over social connections while it denies privacy. Moreover, Facebook isolates at the same time as it exposes: it liberates the user from the constraints of distance yet confines him to a screen. Today temporality has become paramount for the digital mode of production, rivalled only by narrativity. The plasticity of time within new media and emerging real—time technologies remove the temporal boundaries of the actual world.

Facebook has a disconcerting tendency to demand ever more time. Many articles have been devoted to finding out how much time people spend on Facebook Pempek, et al. Foucault noted that the otherness of heterotopic space often includes a distinct regime of time, a heterochrony: the recurring frantic brevity of the festival, for example, or the steady accumulation of the library, or the quiet eternity of the cemetery.


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Comparing Facebook to the latter two heterotopias is particularly instructive, since it shares traits with them but also combines them and adds a dimension that marks it as an altogether new kind of heterochrony. Like a museum, Facebook accumulates time. Fragmented bits of personal information, supposedly reflecting a particular present moment, are uploaded to construct a kind of linearity — like a narrated story. By facilitating and storing constant, real—time conversation, the platform creates a detailed log of a digital personal past.

The timestamp of each entry highlights the temporality of the log. Compared to a museum, which seeks to store a particular selection of objects outside of time, the past on Facebook enters into relationships with the present much more readily.

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This peculiar characteristic reveals itself when we consider the growing permanence of a personal past that influences social relations and sense of identity in the present. Everything and everyone is readily available to be brought back into consciousness. A message once sent, a remark once made or a picture once posted could be fed back into the present at any time.

In a survey conducted by Cluley Sophos, , 51 percent of people interviewed said they were worried about the timeline. Preston Waters cites users that expressed this concern.

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More frippery and less function. Why are they forcing it on us? For some, however, the timeline was a love at first sight.

Heterotopia and the city: public space in a postcivil society

While the majority of users have since tolerated it, many others came to enjoy some of its features. Timeline allows you to sort of like time travel through your, well, Timeline. I even found photos of me that I did not know were there. I really really like it. I could never recreate my past in this way by myself.

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The heterochrony that the timeline creates is an important cause of the aversions of some non users and of the fondness of others. The initial wall format of the profile allowed the user to select elements pictures, etc.

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The timeline on the other hand makes your entire Facebook history visible in reverse chronological order, and does so automatically. Liam Mitchell has emphasized the effortlessness of the timeline. As more information about their lives becomes visible and the past remains easily available for others to view and examine, a digital life lived in this fashion puts extra demands on performance. Creating a solid and consistent digital self—image requires an active process of seeking out these social fossils, carefully managing those remnants of the past, shaping them into a satisfying cohesion for a self—image in the present.

For Facebook non—users, not wanting to construct and perform a certain Facebook persona and not wanting to collapse the past and the present into a heterotopic other time is a major reason to resist entering this space. Facebook keeps the past present, but in a way that is much more direct because it is accessible in the same space where the present happens.

The past becomes transparent in a way that many people, users as well as non—users, find unsettling. The past lives on in another way as well. Like a cemetery, Facebook houses eternity, but here the dead wander among the living. As of , 30 million people who maintained Facebook accounts have died, according to a report in the Huffington Post These profiles stay very active. There remains a high degree of interaction between friends, families, interested strangers and the Facebook avatar that has been left behind.

Stephanie Buck quotes Scott Millin, caregiver and estate trustee of his late sister Nanci, which serves as a good example:. Surprisingly, this interaction is bidirectional. The user is free to fill in the content of these messages. Privacy concerns are the primary reason for resisting or rejecting Facebook. Baumer, et al. Similarly, Stieger, et al. Telling everyone where you are, whether you want people to know or not, is outrageous.

The entire site seems to be based around a strange, self—branding tango of exhibitionism and voyeurism. Such complaints are readily understandable and tie in with a more general concern with privacy in society, for instance with regard to surveillance cameras. For instance, it is often claimed that Facebook, by continually changing its privacy policies, is rapidly shifting cultural norms around privacy, breaking down the barrier between what is considered to be public and private information. However, there is also something more fundamental going on than the process of changing privacy policies that influence Facebook use.

The very distinction between public and private is rapidly becoming obsolete, and the boundaries between some of our every day places e. In discussions of privacy on Facebook, space is an even more prominent issue. We believe this is a general feature of Facebook, not restricted to Trinidad. Facebook is not so much a novel way of relating to one and other, but rather a space like a traditional village, one without internal distinctions between private and the public. The common complaint that Facebook friends are not real friends is both on and off the mark.

Heterotopia and the city: public space in a postcivil society

What typifies Facebook friends is that they are not friends as distinguished from strangers and from family, they are both and neither. It very much depends on how attached one is to the distinction between the privacy of home and the publicness of society.


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Erasing this distinction, as Facebook does, poses problems for some. If I change my statuses from private to public, then do the expectancies of those around me change as well? What about the interactions between someone who is private and another person who is public?

follow link These are all questions about the relation between spaces without a division between private and public, and spaces in which that division is fundamental. This relation has peculiar effects. For instance, the ability to control the terms of self—exposure in networked space is largely illusory, since content intended for particular social networks is accessed with relative ease by family, employers and by peers.

Consider for example the collapse of the space of work and the space of home.