Life on automatic: Facebook's archival subject


  • Liam Mitchell Trent University



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


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.

Author Biography

Liam Mitchell, Trent University

Assistant Professor
Cultural Studies




How to Cite

Mitchell, L. (2014). Life on automatic: Facebook’s archival subject. First Monday, 19(2).