Life on automatic: Facebook's archival subject

Liam Mitchell


Facebook’s ideology rests on and results in a particular ontology: Mark Zuckerberg wants the site to help create an “open” and “connected” world.  This article explains the implications of this world-changing mission by examining services that map the Facebook user’s path across the Internet (like Connect) and archive the user’s life (like Timeline).  Reading these services through the psycho-ontological claims of Baudrillard and Derrida suggests that Facebook’s open, connected individual – the archival subject – is bent towards convenience and interest.  Pairing these readings with a reinterpretation of Heidegger’s philosophy of technology in terms specific to Facebook, the article argues that the archival subject provides evidence of a view of the world characterized predominantly by an orientation toward browsing rather than use or control.  Facebook should be analyzed in terms of this pre-theoretical understanding of the world – one that it both symptomatizes and institutes.  In advancing this argument, the article calls attention to the broader (ontological) and more intensive (subjective) correlates of more traditional (politico-economic or ideological) criticisms of social media.


archive; automaticity; Baudrillard; browsing; convenience; Derrida; Facebook; Heidegger; ontology; Zuckerberg

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