Showing your ass on Mastodon: Lossy distribution, hashtag activism, and public scrutiny on federated, feral social media

Authors

  • Christina Dunbar-Hester University of Southern California

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v29i3.13367

Abstract

This paper presents an account of technopolitics in Mastodon, noncommercial, decentralized social media. Mastodon’s significance has further risen in light of Twitter/X’s recent decimation of its public sphere functions; a noncommercial and ideally public alternative to commercial social media is (even more) urgently needed. The autoethnographic narrative presented here, hinging on a dispute initiated and sustained by an intemperate donkeykeeper in Europe, is idiosyncratic, to say the least. But it reveals meaningful aspects of the network’s features, which point to both the promise of such an architecture and to how it falls short in hailing other users and facilitating transparent communication, two important and related functions in democratic communication online. If we appraise Mastodon in view of civic commitments, this peculiar episode contains lessons for thinking about distribution, conviviality, and their intersections in social media. I show how Mastodon has been designed for “lossy distribution” and argue that this has implications for optimizing democratic functions of noncommercial social media.

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Published

2024-03-09

How to Cite

Dunbar-Hester, C. (2024). Showing your ass on Mastodon: Lossy distribution, hashtag activism, and public scrutiny on federated, feral social media. First Monday, 29(3). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v29i3.13367