If you’ve been aching for some high-minded chatter on the topic of how we, as social animals living in a postmodern society, interact with and are affected by social media and technology, you’re in luck. Snapchat is funding a site called “Real Life” on which just such chatter will be published.
The site, headed by “social media theorist” and Snapchat researcher Nathan Jurgenson, will be posting one article a day on various topics, but not app reviews or hot takes on the latest web drama.
“Popular discourse on technology has sustained the idea that there is a digital space apart from the social world rather than intrinsic to it,” Jurgenson writes in an introductory post explaining the mission, structure and conflicts of interest the endeavor comprises.
“I’ve argued that ‘online’ and ‘offline,’ like ‘body’ and ‘mind,’ aren’t like two positions on a light switch — a perspective I’ve called digital dualism. Instead, all social life is made of both information and material; it’s technological and human, virtual and real.”
That should give you an idea of what to expect. Whether Real Life will prove to be insightful and critical or middlebrow pop philosophy is hard to say, but I’d like to give it the benefit of the doubt. Perspectives from outside the tech world proper are valuable checks to the tired narratives that bounce around the echo chamber many of us inhabit — or at least visit regularly (thank you to our readers). But the selection of the voices providing those perspectives is also affected by the tech mentality, so let us hope the staff at Real Life choose to reach well beyond the easy pickings of tech halo businesses and academia.
As Jurgenson notes in the intro post, Snapchat is bankrolling the whole thing, just as it funds a conference he chairs and at least some of his research. He hastens to add that editorial independence is guaranteed, though one might reasonably guess from his writing that he is hardly likely to find himself in serious ethical or philosophical combat with a benefactor with which he is so closely allied and aligned. At least there won’t be ads.
The site will launch June 27, and if you’re interested in the scene the editors are promoting, head to their showing of Cronenberg’s “Videodrome” in Manhattan that night.