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What has Facebook done to us?

RobertEagle30 January 2012

“My mum just added me on Facebook,” I said in horror last month. Those are the words we all dread uttering.

These words were also the main focus of the Lunch Hour Lecture, ‘What has Facebook done to us?’ by Professor Daniel Miller (UCL Anthropology), on 19 January.

Miller has been studying the impact of Facebook on individuals, relationships and communities. Social anthropology has always been the study of social networks – how people relate to each other, traditionally in the context of kinship. Now, Miller and others in the field of digital anthropology are examining how Facebook can both help forge closer relationship for those separated by distance and, conversely, create tensions within close-knit communities.

There is a Euro-American fear that the internet is fostering greater individualism and disjuncture in society. Miller argues that Facebook: 1) bucks this trend, as by its very nature it connects people, and 2) is used differently by each community. There are, for example, uniquely British, Filipino or Caribbean ways of using Facebook, which shape our relationship to others.

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Tweeting to Topple Tyranny

newseditor18 November 2011

Anna Donovan, a UCL Laws PhD candidate, reports on the third UCL Centre for Ethics & Law Annual Lecture, “Tweeting to Topple Tyranny: Social Media and Corporate Social Responsibility” (live-tweeted by @UCLethicsandlaw). The lecture was presented on 15 November by Professor Erika George (S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah) together with Dr Nina Seppala (Department of Management Science and Innovation, UCL) and chaired by the Dean of UCL Laws, Professor Dame Hazel Genn.

Given the use of social media to mobilise the UK riots this summer, this was a timely as well as highly engaging lecture during which Professor George discussed the emerging (and fast changing) issues arising from the special relationship that we all have with social media.

Professor George discussed a number of key considerations regarding our relationship with social media, although the central question of the lecture asked whether this special relationship gave rise to particular obligations of corporate social responsibility for social media companies. The large audience from a wide range of backgrounds including academia, practice, regulation and industry was a testament to the relevance of the subject matter and the interest in Professor George’s thoughts on this complex issue.
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