At the end of the Fall 2009 semester, I was a first-year graduate student at the University of South Florida, studying multimedia journalism in the department of Mass Communications. In my final paper for Introduction to Theory, I ruminated on the corporatization of social interaction and what Facebook has done by privatizing our individual senses of self. I used Marshall McLuhan’s medium theory to analyze the allure of avatars, profiles, and virtual interaction. I even predicted that slowly, using persuasion and other compliance-gaining techniques, companies like Hulu would begin showing commercials and charging fees—something we now take for granted—and brands like Facebook could monetize their ownership of what the general public considers “free speech” in every post, comment, and profile detail.
“New media’s social networking sites also turn medium theory on its head, or at least throw an ironic gesture its way. There are no social networking sites that are free of branding; they all have a distinct identity and name, and they all wish to promote them. In this way, it transforms the medium into an actual message: the brand of the site. Traditional medium theory would suggest that the medium of social networking is its own cultural message but (McLuhan, 1964, p. 23), in this case, it also carries a secondary and more obvious one. Attaching a brand name to communication itself is an incredibly novel idea. Never before has an entire medium been branded to this extent—it is the equivalent of someone trade marking print or the Internet. All media have been free to a certain extent, until now. Of course, people had to pay for publishing, and home Internet access is not free, but those are superficial monetary concerns. The freedom people have lost in this new medium is that of being able to transmit a message without transmitting the message of a brand.”
Probably worth a good skim: Reaching audiences in a world of New Media Setting the consumer’s agenda through compliance-gaining techniques