Social media and the slow death throes of diachrony

Sutherland, Thomas (2014) Social media and the slow death throes of diachrony. Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Annual Conference: 'The Digital and the Social: Communication for Inclusion and Exchange' . ISSN 1448-4331

Full content URL:

Social_media_and_the_slow_death_throes_o.pdf - Whole Document

Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


Over the course of the twentieth century (and now into the twenty first), numerous iterations of new media have been accused of compressing time to the point at which we experience nothing but a perpetual present. In practice, however, these claims always seem somewhat overblown: even in an age of 24-hour news, ubiquitous mobile communication, and high-speed broadband, time has not been obliterated in the manner portended by pessimists. What I wish to argue in this paper is that all media involving the storage of information, from early modes of writing onward, necessarily en- gender a negotiated tension between synchrony and diachrony. More specifically, I will examine social media as a paradigmatic example of that which Wolfgang Ernst describes as the displacement of the spatialized archive by its temporalized equivalent. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, In- stagram, etc. are premised upon the storage of seemingly diachronic data for (what seems like) per- petuity, and yet, at the same time, the dynamic, generative, and procedural operability of this ar- chived data undermines its historical temporality (that is, its deferral) in favour of an apparently in- stantaneous presence formed in the feedback loop between the user and the mnemotechnical effects of these social media. Faced with such social media as forms of synchronic archival on the one hand, and their ephemeral competitors on the other, which deliberately forego archival in the name of privacy, we see in effect two divergent modes of synchronous temporality: in the former case, practices of archival result in a compression of past, present, and future into a single, continuous present; in the latter, the disavowal of archival (at least in theory), results in a very different form of communicative immediacy, more reminiscent of pre-literate orality (without directly replicating such circumstances). Such distinctions, I argue, must be kept in mind when studying the temporal effects of social media.

Keywords:social media, time, archival, JCOpen
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:24305
Deposited On:27 Sep 2016 11:57

Repository Staff Only: item control page